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Well, it’s been quite a weird month, hasn’t it?

Even more than the expected season of renewal that marks the feast of Samhain, there have been some major changes – some good, some bad, some as yet undetermined in whether their pending impact will serve for good or ill…and yet, all of them exceedingly wide in scope and far ranging in prospect.

Above and beyond numerous major personal and employment based matters shifting more or less into place after so very long a stasis, just look at what’s going on domestically and globally.

Sure, most of it is fucking terrifying…mostly due to the sheer instability and malice towards all of the celebutard Russia elected into office here (with the help of a few abject morons with no concept of just how badly this geriatric going on senile banana republic autocrat-wannabe would fuck us on a domestic scale both socially and economically, not to mention in terms of our standing in what’s becoming something of a global powderkeg).

The faster this madman is banished to the nursing home he belongs in, the better we’ll ALL be, and I mean literally everyone on Earth by that…remember, this genius has the nuclear codes, and is actively baiting similarly-armed tinpot despots, daring them to be the first to lash out.  You can’t help but shudder, or bury yourself in morbid thoughts and intoxication of one sort or another.

But all that aside, not every seismic shift in culture and the world at large has been for the worst – sometimes you have to step back and appreciate the smaller things in life, and the people (and beloved animal companions) in and making up our lives.

It’s precisely in times of crisis, when there seems no real way to act or effect change, that it’s often best to step back and reflect – to stop and smell the roses, to coin a tired phrase, to give yourself a chance to regroup and re-evaluate what really matters. Because honestly…is getting all bent out of shape really going to change a damn thing?

Or to quote the brilliant poesy of Death Toll 80K,

“BURRRRRP! BURRRRP! BURRRRRP!
GAAAAAHH! GAAAHHH! GAAAHHHH!”

Sheer genius, I tell ya.

Onward!

L.A. GUNS – The Missing Peace (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (October 13)

I know it’s been a lot of years since the debut and Cocked and Loaded, but I actually thought they replaced Phil Lewis on vocals here.

You can hear the old rasp and whine every now and again, though – I guess you have to take it like modern day Stephen Pearcy, sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. At least Lewis’ clean singing voice is pleasant enough – we aren’t exactly talking modern day Don Dokken here!

Just as important as Lewis, though, is bandleader Tracii Guns, who brings his trademark mix of hard driving riffs and winning melodies (not to mention rather decent solos – I always thought Tracii, Slash and Badlands-era Jake E. Lee were the best players of the latter 80’s Hollywood hard rock/metal scene in that respect) to the mix here.

Hell, a few tracks in, you almost think it’s 89 all over again – “speed” is pretty rockin’, and Phil is starting to sound very much like his old self on “a drop of bleach”.

The only real flaw here, if you have to find one, is that once you get past those first few tracks, Guns N’ Lewis seem to be aiming more towards the lighter, more radio-airplay friendly vibe of Cocked and Loaded if not heading straight into their Hollywood Vampires era sound.

And yeah, there were some good songs there…

…but everyone knows the debut was where the magic was.

More like “speed” and “a drop of bleach”, this would have been one of the best comeback albums ever.

ROBIN BECK – Love Is Coming (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (October 13)

A harder rocking Nashville cowgirl?  How about a more pop radio Bonnie Raitt?

Yeah, that’s pretty much what you get here with Robin Beck, an attractive older Brooklynite* (and spouse of House of Lords’ James Christian) who’s been plugging away at the UK charts on and off since the late 70s.

* kinda looks like Cynthia Rothrock, no?

Opener “island” is by far the best thing on here, and the closest to AOR radio rock proper (as opposed to the semi-rock pop radio material and balladeering that makes up the better part of Love is Coming), which makes her appearance on Frontiers a bit of a head scratcher – she can certainly hack the more metal/80’s AOR oriented material the label specializes in, but this feels more like latter Heart or even 80’s Cher than even the lighter likes of, say, Winger or Autograph.

Bottom line is, if you always wanted to hear a less blues and slide guitar take on Bonnie Raitt, you should be happy with Ms. Beck.

TYKETTO – Live From Milan (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (October 13)

I vaguely remember Tyketto. They were sort of a Bon Jovi lite, maybe an Autograph by way of Firehouse in overall vibe. Big hair, simple rock riffs, chances are your girlfriend loved the shit out of ’em.

So here we are, many a year on from the heyday of bands like Danger Danger and Trixter, how do these songs hold up…particularly with vocalist Danny Vaughn and drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny being the sole originl members?

Well, honestly? It’s not bad, particularly by comparison to today’s far sorrier music scene. Sure, the songs are still pretty straightforward and definitely more oriented towards fans of Survivor, Foreigner and Loverboy than fans of Lizzy Borden, Obsession and Jag Panzer…but is that a bad thing?

Solos are really quick – they probably gave the guy four bars at best on most tracks – but they’re always appropriate, well fitting and hint at a greater skill level than the material would otherwise suggest.

The audience seems to enjoy the show – I know I heard those Italians singing along during “lay your body down”, much less when Vaughn baits them into doing so during “forever young” – and overall, it’s the sort of concert you used to catch on Austin City Limits back in the day – not exactly a hard rocking spectacular extravaganza, but a lot bigger and more polished than a typical club show.

You can easily hear Tyketto showing up in your typical 80’s movie – maybe a Michael J. Fox comedy, a Hardbodies or even during a Rocky film – and that’s already good by me, right there.

May not set newbies afire, but definitely a good performance and trip down memory lane for fans and those who weren’t necessarily such, but were there and part of the scene back in the day alike.

I liked it well enough, yeah.

BIGFOOT – S/T (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (October 13)

Hey, is that Danny Vaughn and Tyketto again? Sure sounds like it…

Well, actually, this is a younger act out of the UK, and you can hear more of a 1989-1991 Hollywood hard rock/post-GNR “metal” influence playing into this – “karma” felt rather Warrant, later tracks came off sorta Firehouseish if not Danger Dangerlike (“eat your words”), the riffing on “tell me a lie” felt rather Extreme. You get the picture.

Back in the day, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather in telling me this was a UK act – that was back when (IT regions,IT) much less (IT countries IT) had their own specific scenes with their own basic sound…and this was rather L.A. of that era (or if you count Jason McMaster and Dangerous Toys, Texas).

As is, no surprises anymore – for better or worse, it’s a global scene, and you get bands from Sweden and Japan who sound more U.S. than bands from here do. So bottom line? If you dig the aforementioned acts leaning more to the lighter end of the metal/late 80’s hard rock spectrum, you may want to give Bigfoot a quick spin and see if they work for ya too.

OZ – Transition State (AFM Records) (October 27)

You know, I always figured Oz would be Aussies. Go figure.

A staple of the (unsold) record bin at my favorite local indie metal shop for at least a decade, Oz’ albums were something of a standby, like (Jon Mikl) Thor – and at least I remembered him from Uncle Floyd (and would see him again in the unforgettable “heavy metal horror” puppet fest Edge of Hell).

Oz? Who the hell knows. Their records would continue to gather dust in those bins as metal moved from traditonal to glammy hair metal to thrash (or GNR junkie-rock) to death and finally to black metal…right about where metal fell into serious disfavor and grunge, “alternative” and aggro owned the world.

And dammit, those Oz albums were still there, waiting for someone with the cash to blow on a full priced chance. That cover to Warning was rather Venomesque, though.

So here we are, in 2017. Apparently the band themselves were Finns and not from Down Under as you might expect, and had (wisely) hung up their guitars during the aforementioned desert decade that was the 1990s before reuninting 20 years on.

This is their second album since the reunion, with original members Ape De Martini (vox), Mark Ruffneck (drums) and nigh-original member Jay C. Blade (bass) down to merely Ruffneck representing the sole tie to the Oz legacy of yore.

I guess it’s like when we saw Dee Snider with Widowmaker, doing “an evening of Twisted Sister” – a bunch of kids with one veteran, working the back catalogue so well as they can.

That said.

Unlike the aforementioned Widowmaker, the “new” Oz actually pulls off a credible, reasonably vintage sounding (very) hard rock to trad metal sound here on Transition State, interestingly enough going back on an earlier assertion to give up on the band’s early satanic-oriented lyrical focus: “drag you to hell”, “whore of babylon”, “the witch” and “demonized” being only a few examples thereof.

Meaningless, but it’s like hearing that Rock’n’Rolf just wrote a direct sequel to Gates to Purgatory or that Manowar was going back to the “black metal” trappings peppered throughout Hail to England – you sure as hell aren’t expecting it, after all the backpedaling and assertions over the years.

Riffs are raw and rather catchy, particularly if you’re into more of a vintage/US power metal sound, and new kid Vince Kojvula sounds as confident and powerful as a veteran – my eyebrows did raise when I hit play on this album, and I am starting to wonder if I and a whole lot of other local metalheads were missing out on something decent for all those years.

Overall, the impression is of a very heavy, NWOBHM-derived take on hard rock more than metal proper – I guess you could make vague comparisons to a band like Lion in that they’re simply too heavy for any “rock” (or “hair metal”) label, but the production and vibe is more organic and loose than what you’d typically associate with “metal” these days.

If Heavy Load and High Power are your idea of what heavy metal is supposed to sound like, then Oz is very much metal, and even more catchy (though “melodic” isn’t exactly a phrase that comes to mind, when you hear nigh-Accept screams and crunchy, driving riffs like this). And yeah, back in the day, this spectrum of music was ALL considered “metal”, so I’m definitely good referring to ’em as such.

And either way…you probably don’t want to pass up on this one. It’s a damn good album, if somewhat middle of the road to workaday in approach.

I’ll give ’em a well deserved nod of respect – I sure liked this one.

Procession – Doom Decimation (High Roller Records) (October 31)

More or less “traditional” doom act out of Chile.

I say “more or less” in case you’re expecting the vintage 70’s sound of bands like Sabbath, early Trouble or St. Vitus – this is more the very deliberate, gothic/melodic doom that came in the later 80’s and beyond on the backs of bands like Paradise Lost…but simpler, less lush in production and without any pretense towards death metal crossover.

I guess you can look most pointedly to Candlemass as the likely inspiration for what Procession delivers here on Doom Decimation – clean (if just a touch gravel-toned) declamatory baritone vox, long held notes and a (perhaps overly) clean and very much in your face rhythm section working a fairly basic funeral dirge take on traditionalist to US power metallike riffage.

The only real surprise here is that the band hails from South American climes – there’s not a hint of crazed blackthrash, and not even a touch of a discernible accent in Felipe Plaza Kutzbach’s vocals (which may be a result of his decade or more living in Europe, but still…)

Listenable, likeable, but not exactly what I think of when it comes to (trad) doom – I’m hearing Procession more as doom-oriented trad metallers than a doom band proper.

Still in all, take it as a positive – zero complaints about this one, and even a bit of deserved praise thrown their way.

Shrapnel – Raised On Decay (Spinefarm/Candlelight) (September 29)

You know, the world of heavy metal is just fucking weird, sometimes.

When it was all going down during the 80’s and (very) early 90’s, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of codification – you were either “mainstream” (which was anything from AOR/hard rock to trad to glam) or “underground” (usually referred to as “a thrasher”, a term which included the just dawning death and black metal scenes, before they flourished into something entirely distinct and separate circa 1989/90 and 1991-3, respectively). The only real “division” was between “thrasher” and “poseur”.

As the years went by and metal went underground (or more accurately, gestated and re-birthed in diehard nations like Japan and Germany, if not the entirety of Europe), suddenly we had entire scenes of nigh-soundalike acts built off of outright worship of individual bands. The OCD classification thing went crazy, and suddenly you have to explain what your listening preferences are with a goddamn flow chart.

But that’s one thing. What’s really fucked is when bands claim to be one thing, and are really something else entirely – the whole “black/death” thing, for example (which is really just a particularly lame variant of black metal, bearing precious little in common with death metal proper).

And a band like Shrapnel, who claims lineage to thrash metal…but is really some sort of aggro-vocalled, modern-to-black metal drumming-driven oddity with sort-of late thrash riffing tagged on almost as an afterthought.

Seriously. You won’t be able to pick out a single thrash band from the scene’s heyday that these guys are cribbing from or sound even remotely like…at a really big stretch, you may be able to say the chunka-chunka riffing orientation points to some familiarity with (likely post-Fabulous Disaster era) Exodus.

Whoop-dee-doo.

They’ve apparently toured with actual thrash bands (Exodus, Overkill, Destruction, Sacred Reich, Death Angel, etc.), so you’d think some of that would rub off on them…but then again, absolutely zero of those bands sound much like they did back in the day of late, anyway. So who knows, maybe they did! 

Learn from the classics, kids. Not the adulterated “modern metal” crap they’re working nowadays.

It’s fast and aggressive – if that’s your rather low bar criteria for what constitutes either “good” or “thrash”, have at it.

My Ticket Home – unReal (Spinefarm Records) (October 6)

Well, you’d think you’d be in for real trouble when the promo writeup kicks off with this line: “in this day and age, you’re either hard-, nu-, -core, or just plain old confused.”

Well, I agree with the last part, anyway…a whole lotta confused genre-mashers running around out there! But if those three designations comprise all there is to find? Yeah, I’m Audi-5000, to quote an old catchphrase.

Well, some metalcore’s OK by me.

Yeah, I know, groans, hisses, thrown tomatoes. So sue me, I really dig Killswitch.

Anyway…these guys. What are they, really?

There’s a pleasantly trippy, experimental edge to the nigh-psychedelic lead lines, but the vox lean a bit too far into nu-metal for my tastes. You can pick up elements of emo, aggro and metalcore, but predominantly? This represents one of the most listenable of an otherwise fairly unlistenable subgenre…namely, nu-metal.

See, they just didn’t want to come out and admit that in public, because they know everybody hates that shit.

Well, OK, except for a few aging, tattoo-covered acquaintances of mine who seem to think shit like Linkin Park and Porcupine Tree are somehow “up my alley” and “metal”, much to my amusement and vague chagrin…yeah, sure. I’m a huge Korn fan. I’m also the Prime Minister of France, didn’t you know?

Anyway, what you can take away as positive is that bit about the trippy lead lines – there’s enough of a spacey, oddball indie orientation to My Ticket Home to separate them from the likes of, I don’t know, Suicide Silence or whatever. Don’t ask me, I don’t listen to that shit, it’s an educated guess (insert laughter here).

Moments in tracks like “flee the flesh”, “time kills everything” and “Joi” work well enough to leave on as background music, and point to a more interesting band than, say, Five Finger Death Punch could ever dream of becoming.

But that’s not saying they’re there yet.

They have a lot of bad influences to shed, and burn away in the flames of performance and critical review, before they can actually get there, where it seems they actually belong.

Has definite promise. Just needs all the shit washed off and polished away first.

   

36 Crazyfists – Lanterns (Spinefarm Records) (September 29)

Another aggro-to-nu-metal oriented act, with a Kornlike orientation on personal pain, problems and trauma. You know, kinda like emo on steroids.

Apparently the vocalist just went through a divorce. Sucks to be in that situation, yeah. And the same guy lost his mom before the last album. Oof.

But does every album have to come at the cost of, and wind up based on, such negativity and black depths of emotion? Doesn’t seem entirely healthy to build a career around wallowing in it…

Anyway, it’s probably no surprise from this that these guys are a 90’s band. Gee, aggro? Nu-metal? At least there’s no grunge influence creeping through, but sheesh…there’s a reason music seriously sucked in that decade (the all too brief Stateside gothic rock resurgence aside)…

Most amusing line in the writeup: vocalist/songwriter Brock Lindow describes himself as “a pretty upbeat guy” and says this “was the most fun (he’s) ever had recording an album.”

Really.

Well, it doesn’t exactly come across here, bro…

Folks suffering from major depression (or maybe going through a divorce or death in the family) may well gravitate to music like this…personally, I’d head for something darker, or more despairingly resilient, with a message that “despite all this, we shall stand”.

Which is what Brock apparently intends with this album.

“There are certain things in life you can dwell on and hold grudges, and it really doesn’t help you in any way…once I decided to move on with my life and leave that attitude behind, I felt much lighter…my friends…were there for me. With everything we went thorugh, victory is the end result…I hope it spreads some light.”

Yeah, I can get behind that sentiment, wholeheartedly.

Your call whether this style of music, or this album per se, is the way to get to that point or no. But hats off to the man for moving beyond, or giving best efforts towards same.

APPICE – Sinister (Steamhammer / SPV) (October 27)

Now this is weird. Two famous brothers form a band of their own.

No, not that, that’s fairly common. What’s weird is that they’re both drummers.

Two drummers? What is this, Spinal Tap?

Well, look, they’ve both been around over the years – Carmine with Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart (when he was still a hard drinking rocker, and not an overweight old man MOR Motown preservationist), Ozzy, Cactus and King Kobra just to name a few, and Vinny with the Dio-era Sabbath and of course Dio thereafter.

“Monsters and heroes” runs down many of these bands (or the entire past history of Ronnie James Dio, at least) with a series of cheap lyrical references that are more amusing than impressive. Come on, what did you expect when they include a track like “bros in drums”?

But the bottom line here is, do you remember Ringo Starr and his All-Star(r) Band?

Yeah. That’s what Appice is. Two drummers and a catch as catch can group of former associates (and some new ones) get together and jam on some mediocre songs, more of interest to the starfuckers out there than the musico.

“Look, it’s Phil Soussan of Ozzy on those few tracks! And Robin McAuley of MSG! There’s Rough Cutt’s Paul Shortino! And Dio’s Craig Goldy!” You get the general idea.

Carmine actually takes the mic for the 60’s-style “you’ve got me running” and delivers a credible performance, complete with Hammond-style organ backing and some good drum fills (well, there’d have to be, right?).

Look, they’re both veteran drummers, and rather decent ones at that. They’ve dug up some coworkers and acquaintances from back in the day, and Carmine’s singing’s just fine – probably should have done more tracks with him as frontman, actually.

But the album does drag a bit, feeling more “classic rock” than it ever does metal or even AOR. I guess if you think Ace Frehley’s post-Frehley’s Comet solo career, you’ll get a general idea of what to expect here, minus the likeable guitar solos.

You take a quick listen out of curiosity, you raise an eyebrow or two at the guest list, you shrug your shoulders, you move on.

Just like Ringo and his All-Star(r) Band.

b.o.s.c.h. – Fleischwolf (Laute Helden / SPV) (October 13)

Industrialized metal, somewhat in the vein of Gothminister, but without any of the melodic/gothic business to soften things.

As a consequence, they come off more like a more aggro take on Rammstein, or a less angry, less politically involved Ministry.

If it means anything to you Deutscher volke out there, they consider themselves part of the “Neue Deutsche Harte” scene, whatever that implies (“New German Heart”, for non-speakers).

Your call whether this piques your interest or not – while acceptable and listenable enough for the type, it really didn’t stand out in any way, and I never was a huge fan of industrial (or industrial-fill in the blank) in the first place.

\     

THE FRIGHT – Canto V (Steamhammer / SPV) (October 13)

Gothic Hollywood metal?

Seriously, these guys are working more or less a Frontiers AOR/late 80’s L.A. hard rock/metal vibe, complete with prominent, yet raw toned guitars, plenty of melodicism and big anthemic choruses…

…but then bringing in a Moonspellish gothicism over the top, as if Y&T spent the last few months listening to The Mission or something. I guess you could say Type O Negative, too, but Brooklyn’s favorite garbageman (yes, literally, that was his day job) never was goth…sorry to tell the fangirls, but the first Carnivore album was the only thing of worth he left the world.

Anyway, you get the idea of where things stand with The Fright. Despite attempting to sell themselves on a trendier goth imagery, they’re the more melodic end of late 80’s L.A. metal to the bone, some orientation towards the aforementioned Moonspell or even H-I-M merely adding extra spice to the mix.

Baritone vocals with a light quaver may bring Andrew Eldritch to mind…but rare indeed is the goth who would ever be caught dead working something this openly anthemic, upbeat and ever so very metal.

Even so.

It’s catchy enough, so I liked ’em, make no mistake.

 

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats – Vol 1 (Rise Above Records) (October 13)

Somewhere between, say, Count Raven and Electric Wizard lies Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, a UK indie act consisting of (at the time) Kevin Starrs and two sorta-pseudonymous but otherwise unnamed females (“Red” and “Kat”).

Carrying some of the “occult rock” vibe then so prominent in the scene (Devil’s Blood, Ghost, Blood Ceremony, Hour of 13, et al), Starr and company always seemed to be playing that end more tongue in cheek than the more seriously satanic likes of Lemouchi and company…songs about cult horror films and German krimi were the order of the day (“dead eyes of london”, “vampire circus”, etc.)

Even so, the druggy organ and fuzz guitar based bashing hearkened back to the same influences those bands similarly evinced (though sadly, Ghost would almost immediately jump the shark into utter shite territory after Opus Eponymous, and is no longer worth discussing aside from that fascinating debut) – Blue Cheer, Grand Funk, Hendrix, Hawkwind. Loud, ballsy and very, very stoned…

As such, they were already setting themselves as a breed apart, more aggressive and driving than the more sinister and brooding Sabbathisms and Black Widow/Coven references of their peers, more campy without tripping the line into Purson territory (about whom the less said the better).

Put simply, their stuff worked, and while clearly of the same base mindset and musical geneaology, were walking a different path entirely.

So here we are in 2017, and Starr’s gone back into the archives to remix and remaster his 2010 debut, while wisely steering clear of overly polishing and stripping the album of its very persona thereby. It’s louder, it’s cleaner…but it’s still pretty raw and rough around the edges, in a good way.

What more really needs to be said? If you dig traditional doom, “occult rock” or even just the druggier and heavier end of late 60’s/early 70’s psychedelic hard rock, you should find yourself very much at home with Uncle Acid’s Vol. 1.

I sure was.

Raise a loaded bong in salute.

Antisect – The Rising Of The Lights (Rise Above Records) (October 13)

One of the classic UK anarcho-punk acts like Crass, Chumbawamba and arguably related to politically charged Oi! leaning UK82 acts like The Exploited, Discharge and GBH.

As you might expect, the politics lean well Left and they know their way around a squat, not to mention resistance against egregious enemy of the people-style right wing politicians like Maggie Thatcher or Donald Trump…and this is their first album proper since 1991.

Founding member Pete Lyons (guitar) now handles vox as well, bringing early bassist John Bryson and more recent drummer Joe Burwood along with him. Essentially, it’s the Out from the Void lineup back together again, look at it that way.

As you might expect from most or all of the aforementioned, they’re a very hard and crunchy, quite metallized take on punk rock, with overtones of crust in the distorted/overdriven vocals and grinding, somewhat simplistic feel.

And lyrically speaking, with tracks like “welcome to the new Dark Ages”, “weapons of mass destruction” and “something to hate” (listen to the lyrics!), they certainly haven’t changed their stance politicosocially.

Or as Lyons puts it: “the overriding thing that we’re attempting to put across is one of encouraging all of us to believe in ourselves and to not feel that we’re powerless to affect change in the world…that, yes, we can fucking do stuff if we really want to.”

A voice of rationality much needed in these dark days, Antisect return offering a very welcome Rising of the Lights.

They’ve just handed you the baton.

So what are you going to do with it?

The fact that we can talk in those terms for a change boils down to one verdict.

Respect.

GWAR – The Blood Of Gods (Metal Blade Records) (October 20)

I knew a fella back in the early millenium.  Used to work in a local video store (sales chain as opposed to rental outlet). Found out that not only did we share similar tastes in horror and exploitation cinema, but that we were both diehard metalheads.  Of course, my tastes ran more pointedly retro and centered on the stuff I came up on – he was more then-current Euro power metal and suchlike (though he found it hilarious that I had recently discovered and admitted to sorta liking Hammerfall – this from a guy who was big on Iced Earth and Manowar!)

Anyway, one of his favorite concert tales was of going to see GWAR. He seemed overly excited to have been among the victims sprayed with all sorts of unmentionable “bodily fluids” and spew delivered by the infamously crude “scumdogs of the universe” as part of their foam and latex sinister space creature schtick…the cruder and more homoerotic the situation sounded, the more gleeful he got (no, he was very straight, if that’s an issue…but you wouldn’t catch me bragging about being on the recieving end of that, however staged and silly!)

These punk/metal aliens have been plugging away since 1988, if you can believe  that…a whole hell of a lot longer than you’d expect for what has always been, essentially, a questionably “talented” novelty act.  Even fans appear unafraid to admit, it’s all about the stage show, the concerts, the visuals, the lowbrow comedy of the band’s ballyhoo and schtick, rather than any real pretense at musical prowess – you have to give ’em credit for being able to play at all under those big-ass foam rubber costumes!

So here we are, with what must be their 15th album or thereabouts, and their first without founder and frontman Dave Brockie.  But has anything really changed?  Is this album a “worthy successor” to the Oderus Urungus “legacy”?

Well, I can’t speak to anything post Scumdogs – GWAR was always a one note joke band of limited musical talent, why bother revisiting them album after album (unless you really got a belly laugh out of guys in foam rubber suits spraying questionable materials on audiences worldwide, in which case you went to their shows, not bought their albums!)

But from what I’m hearing here, the band’s shifted focus over the years, working more of a black metallish tremelo lead line-driven thing on “war on GWAR”, then more of a Motorheadlike biker band vibe on “Viking death machine”, before going vaguely melodeath on “el presidente”. Then back to the biker vibe for “I’ll be your monster”, kind of a sloppy South American-style thrash on “auroch”, a bit aggro/groove meets thrash on “swarm”, and very pointedly modern thrash for “crushed by the cross”. Finally, they cover Bon Scott AC/DC with “if you want blood”.

Well, I did recall a bit of this bikerish vibe with at least the earlier Brockie-era material, but not really on the thrash, and certainly no hints of black metal or melodeath…so either the band changed over the years, or Mike “Blothar” (formerly “Beefcake the Mighty”) Bishop is pulling them in a slightly new direction – I leave it to diehard GWAR fans to discern which is more the case.

Either way, the vocals are less goofy and muppetlike (I always pictured Brockie as that big blue monster with the google eyes and bulbous red nose from Sesame Street) and a lot more straightforward – you could actually take this GWAR as more of a “serious” band concern than a cheap novelty act.

But regardless, when you hear music…even music that’s more to the point and less comedy act feeling than the GWAR I remember…performed by a bunch of guys in rubber monster suits claiming to be overlords from outer space, you have to laugh.

And honestly? That’s a big part of the band’s appeal to its fans…probably the main one, in fact.

Better than I remember ’em being, that’s for damn sure.

Dead Quiet – Grand Rites (ARTOFFACT RECORDS / STORMING THE BASE) (November 3)

hmm.

At first, you’re thinking “ah, another doom metal act”.

Then the vintage organ, riffing and very mids-heavy production starts pointing towards (early) 70’s rock, if not “occult rock” in sensibilities.  Then there’s some riffing going on that stem from more recent heavy music influence – a bit 90’s, a bit post-millenial metal revival. But all of it kind of gets subsumed into a doomy, early 70’s, kind of Deep Purplish to Pink Floydesque classic rock in the end.

Promo writeup references Mastodon and Corrosion of Conformity alongside more expected doom and 70’s rock influences, and yeah, that’s pretty much what I was hearing with the sorta 90’s heavy music vibe and riffing, so good call, there.

While I’d have preferred a muddier (or meatier) production on this (think of how much better this would sound if it were done like SST-era St. Vitus or Dopethrone-era Electric Wizard!) and the classic rock business tends to leave me flat (yeah, I’ve worked construction sites in the past…you learn to hate that shit reeeeeeal fast, being subjected to the same 20 songs from decades ago on repeat day after day…who the fuck is handing stations a payola playlist on music that old?)

But all told, this was doomy and heavy enough (and I loved the old school guitar solos and Hammond organ business) for my tastes, so yeah, I’ll recommend ’em to fans of a less dark “occult rock”, a less traditional (but still very vintage sounding) doom or the heavier end of “classic rock”.

Not bad at all.

HYPERION – Dangerous Days (Fighter) (November 22)

Italian traditional to power metal act.

There’s a strong retro feel to the riffing, until they really kick in the speed and start going all Euro power metal in the general vein of Helloween, Iron Savior and their multifarious progeny.

Naturally, the more midtempo and traditonal to US-style power metal bits work a whole hell of a lot better to these ears, but user experience may differ – have at least one social media friend who looooves the European strain, but finds the classic US variant spotty (or right to the point, the exact reverse of how I hear things). So it always comes down to your personal tastes and orientation, in the end.

Frontman Michelangelo Carano offers solid if a tad quavering nigh-baritone range vocals (I guess somewhat akin to a more subdued tenor version of Buck-Tick’s Atsushi Sakurai) and the riffing, performance and production are all more than acceptable, but the overall takeaway here is respectable, but a bit bland.

Nothing wrong with ’em, but probably more for the (Euro/modern) power metal aficionado and/or hardcore Iron Maiden fanboy than someone whose idea of killer power metal falls more between classic Metal Church, Heretic, Tyrant, Warlord, Hexx and Jag Panzer

Give the paisani credit for offering a solid, respectable, very listenable record here – just don’t mind the fact that you’ll struggle to remember a song or riff even seconds after it’s over.

Still in all, fair enough.

  

Zephyra – “The Darkest Black” (Inverse)

Melodeath band with a bizarre vocal approach.

The band themselves are solid enough and easily recognizable in both influences and the sound they’re trying to achieve (and generally succeed at doing)…

…but Asa Netterbrant’s vox fall somewhere between a shoutgesang and aggro/screamo, too thin and strident on the former end and just plain silly on the latter (as is the case with just about anybody going for that shit vocal approach – Asa’s growly-screams are no better or worse than anybody else’s, for what little that’s  worth).

I do think the band has some promise, rather questionable vox aside. We’ll see what happens on a full length.

  

Blood Region – “The Veteran” (Inverse Records) (September 25)

Reasonably well produced Finnish melodeath.

The vocals blow, but you sort of expect that after awhile…if you can’t fucking sing, just growl or snarl or yell (or worst of all, SCREEEEEAAAAAMMMM aggro style, at which point listeners with any modicum of taste just shut off or flip the station). This is growly-shout nonsense much akin to Viking metal, if you’re keeping record.

That aside, the song’s fairly lush, the guitar tone’s full and multitracked, and the song has a reasonably epic feel…yeah, it feels very festival circuit Viking/pagan metal in that sense. Just didn’t like that little modulation in the chorus – felt too Skid Row/Bon Jovi “transpose up or down one step and pretend it’s good songwriting” for my taste.

The second Inverse single this month where the band’s not bad at all, but the frontperson’s questionable at best.

Must be something in the water this month…

Buried And Gone – The Final Hour (Inverse Records) (September 27)

A nice acoustic intro gives way to a bombastic Euro-power metal style riff driven by its lead line. But then you get a lame post-Black Album James Hetfieldlike vocal (complete with that half-rasped implied sneer) and some detuned lunkhead nu metal riffs at the verse.

Next track crosses a very US modern metal/near-groove riffing on the verses with metalcore melodicism and power at the choruses.  Then they start going all Children of Bodom, but with weird black/death atonality at the bridge (or is that supposed to be a half assed chorus?).

Oh, and there’s gang chant choruses, hardcore punk style. Then back to the doofy pseudo-groove thing. And he cops some Layne Staley corner of the mouth YOWWWOWWWOWWWW crap once or twice there too.

Yeah, and the next track goes full on Korn. Before getting very Southern groove, that is.

Say what the holy living hell is this supposed to be?

Well, it’s obvious that these guys don’t know, so honestly? It’s not even worth trying.

So overwhelmingly 90’s, it’s like walking into one of those public crappers on a hot summer day.

You know that nauseating wall of stench that hits you, and you have to fight turning right back around and just pissing in the woods instead?

Yeah.

Whatever. I guess if you liked all that grunge, aggro and nu metal shit, you’ll probably love this.

Just don’t come talking to me, because I already think you’re an asshole for it.

Torchia – Of Curses and Grief (Concorde Music Company) (October 27)

Melo-‘speed metal’? Melo-thrash?

Well, if you can get past those horrible glass-gargling shrieked “vocals” (with a few death belches thrown in for punctuation), the band keeps things high speed yet melodic…on the guitar end.

Think somewhere between Jeff Waters and early Annihilator crossed with James Murphy in Disincarnate as well as the expected At the Gates/Gothenburg influences that melodeath (and metalcore) tend to co-opt as their own these days.

Would be rather good stuff, if not for that perfectly horrible frontman – he’s just abominable, I’m sorry.

“Change your vocalist, change your career – for the better,” as they say in the PSAs…

Opium Warlords – Droner (Svart Records) (November 3)

Droning doom almost exactly in the Reverend Bizarre mold: overlong, kind of dull, almost funeral doom in both tempo and extremity of track length but far less appealing somehow.

Well, it’s probably no surprise that Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen is behind this one.

If the tempo were picked up a tad and the tracks dialed back to a more manageable length (say, 7-12 minutes instead of 20 plus!), you could make parallels to Cathedral or even Goatlord (in its crustiness and simplicity, at least), but as it is…

yeah.

Like Reverend Bizarre, it’s listenable as background music…but after about a half an hour of this you’re going to start feeling very restless and fidgety. You mean nothing’s happened yet?!? 

To quote a hilariously stiff and pretentious WKCR DJ back in the day, when posing the hypothetical question “and where Ravel cometh, can Debussy be far behind?”,

“And the answer is, no.”

Death Toll 80K – Step Down (Svart Records) (November 17)

BURRRP! BURRRP! BURRRP!
GAAAAH! GAAAAH! GAAAAH!

Exact quote of the lyrics to the first two “songs” here.

Wait, scratch that…it’s the entire lyrics sheet for the album.

Gee, think it’s grindcore in its basest and most mockable form?

Well, they do have a track or two that, like Repulsion or Terrorizer, at least have a discernible riff (the first minute of “process”, for example)…but then it’s back to sheer mud, with those brilliant lyric compositions and that golden throated vocal style.

Okay, I’m done. Next?

Jess and the Ancient Ones – The Horse and Other Weird Tales (Svart Records) (December 1)

We’d covered their Castenada and Second Psychedelic Coming, and prior assessments hold: despite strong associations with the “occult rock” movement a few years back, these Finns are more of a light psychedelic rock act, strongly fixated on the latter 60’s (a casual listen from someone not aware of their recent pedigree might peg them as hailing from somewhere between 1966-1969).

They definitely get that sort of Peanut Butter Conspiracy by way of H.P. Lovecraft with a touch of both the Schocking Blue and Cold Blood (minus the horn section) thing down, with a lot of Farifsa organ (occasionally sounding ring modulated) and Jess’ bluesy, soulfully expressive vocal approach.

Look, they blow poseurs like Purson all to shit without even trying…just don’t compare them to actual “occult rockers” like Blood Ceremony or the Devil’s Blood.

Because as good as Jess and the Ancient Ones are (and as someone who used to listen to a lot of 60’s psychedelic rock during the dry days of the early 90’s, trust me, they are,) they’re working a completely different game, in an entirely separate ballpark.

If you dig any of the aforementioned swinging 60’s acts, you’d be a fool not to check this one out.

  

THREAT SIGNAL – Disconnect (Agonia Records) (November 10)

BLEEEEEIIIIAAAHHHH!!!!

Yep, it’s yet another Anselmo wannabe aggro kid on vox.  The band works some see-saw balancing act between lunkhead aggro riffing on the verses and more of an emo/metalcore melodicism at the choruses, and tosses a few latter-Death style machine gun stutter riffs in just to confuse the matter even further.

So bottom line: the verses with all that aggro shit are absolutely unlistenable.

What I found myself doing in fairly short order was skipping up to the bridge and chorus of every song and trying to assess the band on that basis, but not only were the vocals still pretty bad even on the more “clean” melodic sections (how flat can you sing and still sort of stay in tune with the band? This guy’s gonna find out, dammit!), that’s kind of lopsided in the first place.

Taken solely by the choruses, you can call Threat Signal a fairly typical though not exactly laudable or “special” metalcore act…but then you have to deal with the verses, which are more straight up 90’s aggro.

Yeah, too much pimply-faced teenage hormone imbalance for me.

I’m throwing in the towel now, I can’t take much more of this one, sorry.

Next?

FORGOTTEN TOMB – We Owe You Nothing (Agonia Records) (October 27)

Italian act, we’ve covered their Hurt Yourself and the Ones You Love a few years back.

They’re sorta black metallish, but more in a post- sense of the word, with a whole hell of a lot of aggro sub-Anselmoness crossed with a hint of John Tardyesque vomiting appended thereto. Oh, and the riffs feel sort of emo to metalcore more often than not…

Look, like this stuff or hate it, look at the pedigree of its producer, Chris “Zeuss” Harris, who’s responsible for bands like:

Hatebreed! Demon Hunter! Shadows Fall! Suicide Silence! Whitechapel! Crowbar! Madball! Bleeding Through! Terror! Earth Crisis! Murderdolls!

uh…yeah. That leaves ya questioning if this is even metal, much less black metal…

Well, ignoring that, you still hear a fair amount of black/death alongside the emoness and aggro crap, so they’re not entirely outside the genre yet.

But it’s possible they’re looking towards heading somewhere “other” entirely.

Listenable, angry, dark.

No, it’s nothing great. But still better than last time around, not to mention strangely acceptable and capable of sitting through without much complaint, despite all of the aforesaid.

BLAZE OF PERDITION – Conscious Darkness (Agonia Records) (November 3)

We covered their Near Death Revelations and the impression’s about the same.

If this is what the Polish scene’s become in the decades post-Temple of Fullmoon (for all the unsavory politicosocial baggage those bands brought with them), they might want to consider revisiting at least the musical end of what they’ve left behind…

For fans of Behemoth, possibly Belphegor and Watain.

For the rest of us…snooze city.

(stifled yawn)

Next?

AOSOTH – V: The Inside Scriptures (Agonia Records) (November 17)

We covered their split with Order of Orias and again, much of what we said last time around applies – if you took a whole lot of Watain and filtered it through more recent Marduk to make it more palatable, you’d likely have something much akin to what Aosoth is offering herein.

HAHAHA…damn, just saw that “Aosoth’s logo was prepared by Erik Danielsson of Watain”. Go figure.

Drop the atonal open string Watainisms, guys. You’ll be doing yourselves a huge favor, to be sure.

Overall, listenable…but I’ll stick to Hakansson and company for this sort of fix.

Death Trip – Madhouse (Ektro) (December 6)

Weird throw any tone out there and see what happens pseudo-8 bit video game music crossed with Wall of Voodoo (remember that electronic nonsense they added to “Mexican radio”?) runs incessantly in a loop over some crusty biker bandish US black metal/Hells Headbangers-style riffing.

Later tracks get a bit more doomy, then stoner rock, trading in layered (but still sorta random to atonal) guitar leads ala Hendrix (or for that matter, the Third Eye Cinema podcast closing theme, albeit minus the atonality in either comparative case).

It’s sort of like Monstermagnet crossed with Intoxicated by way of Maax and Shitfucker.

Yeah, that’s right. And you know I like all of those bands to one degree or another (I mean, the latter’s a bit questionable, but “black mold” is still killer…)

Too chaotic and noisy for my tastes, but all the elements are there for a win.

Just needs a spit polish.

Pakasteet – Pula (Ektro / Ruton Music) (December 8)

Jussi Lehtisalo of Circle joins forces with another electronic composer I’m unfamiliar with for some quirky droning…I was going to say “ambient” tracks, but there’s precious little that’s relaxing or trancelike about what’s being offered here.

Think more of the (very) early, far less danceable Kraftwerk as informed by early Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and you may get a general idea of what Pula is all about – quirky synthesized samples and drones with occasional oddball drumbeats giving some hesitant propulsion to the proceedings.

Most accessible track is probably “neljas pointti”, which brings a touch of John Carpenter by way of Nightsatan lazerpunk vibe to the table.

Probably too off kilter for most sensibilities, but may appeal to hardcore industrial or krautrock veterans (i.e. those who came in and appreciate those scenes before they became danceable, accessible and consequently popular).

 

Jussi Lehtisalo – Spectrum (Ektro / Ruton Music) (December 8)

Second effort from Jussi this month (after Pakasteet, in case you weren’t paying attention), but this one’s even more experimental if you can believe that.

A collection of castoffs and leftovers (or as Jussi himself puts it in the promo materials, “handwritten notes-to-self” and “confessions of an escapist ice hockey fan”), this is an odds and sods of studio experiments.

Many sound quite similar (mainly due to the annoying steam engine-style percussion he opts to use throughout), but without that, some are rather nice and airy (“sky carpenter”, sheep hammer”) and others sound “futurist” in the way that new wave did at the very dawn of the 80’s (“doom cresta”, “extra days”).

Any way you slice it, this one will be a difficult listen for anyone not accustomed to the Kims Video playlist back in the 90’s (all you New Yorkers out there know exactly what I mean), but a few tracks and ideas will reward the less than casual listener and remind us that this was, after all, the mind behind Circle.

Some interesting stuff to be found here, at least for the intrepid archaeologist of electronic music.

Lustre – Still Innocence (Nordvis Produktion) (November 3)

We’d reviewed this project several times over the years:

WonderBlossom and its precedent single “‘neath rock and stone” as well as their stint as “The Burning“, and this, interestingly, represents Lustre at their most pointedly gothic darkwave.

Apparently leaving behind all trappings and pretensions towards black metal (ambient or otherwise), Still Innocence leaves “sole member” Henrik Sunding sounding quite Lyciaesque, or at least entirely suitable for the vintage Projekt Records roster.

Lush, dark, moving, this is the closest Lustre has ever come to, say, Frozen Ocean (links to all prior reviews thereof can be found here) – and that’s a real compliment.

Opener “dreaded still” is the clear winner here, but “reverence road” travels much the same path, with the other tracks never straying very far from this newly minted template.

Always had reasonably good words for Lustre, but this one pretty much tops ’em all thus far.

Here’s to more like this in future.

Werian – Lunar Cult Society (Eisenwald)

In case you couldn’t guess from the title or cover, these guys are all about atavism and “becoming a werewolf”. You’ve heard it before, many a time, from many a black metaller.

What is a bit…well, hardly new, but rarified enough to come as refreshing, is their first wave-ish (in spirit, anyway) mix of older school black metal and (sorta) doom.

Now mind, what we’re talking here is decidedly far from traditional doom in any respect, and even leagues removed from what Goatlord was doing…but it’s sort of Electric Wizardy stoner doom gone black metal.

The only problem with Werian are those shit “called it in over the phone” Waxen-style vox that seem to be all the rage in the ever-lamer modern black metal scene. First nobody can actually sing, now they can’t even snarl and growl? Please. Just give it up if you’re that useless…

It’s a reissue compilation of their two demos (2011 and 2015), so naturally the earlier demo sounds more pure and worthy, despite a less impressive production than the latter (which seems dispirited and a bit rote by comparison)…but overall, this one is worth looking into…

…if for nothing else than to break things up between the endless oncoming waves that continue to feed the flames of the Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards that is the rather sorry “modern black metal scene”.

Cheap laugh department: our staff here consists of “3 stalwarts from the shadows”.

Seriously, that’s how they bill themselves.

See? Worth looking into, at least.

We could all use some shits and giggles.

Infaust – Verblichen (Eisenwald) (November 10)

And speaking of amusing monikers, here we have a fellow named “Psycho” and his pal “Sadistic M.”

Well, “Psycho” definitely sounds the part, like Hat from Gorgoroth decided to join a Destruction cover band while really, really drunk. “Bleee-EEEE-yaaaaah…urrrp!”

The music is seriously straightforward, more or less old school Norwegian second wave, I’d say middle to latter 90’s in tone. You could use Gorgoroth of that period as a general touchstone, but take away the memorable riffing of Roger “Infernus” Tiegs entirely – Infaust’s sound is pretty generic, for all its insistence on remaining resolutely retro.

Nothing wrong with it, but you’ve definitely heard this same exact sound done with more flair and panache…and it was probably something “new” and “surprising” at the time…

…rather than just perfectly acceptable, but nothing more than the same old, same old.

Häive – Iätön (Eisenwald)

One man band, the product of a certain Janne ‘Varjosielu’ Väätäinen.

As you can probably tell from the cover, Haive leans far more pagan or even Viking than black metal proper, but in the “definitely could pass” sense of early Enslaved or Hades (before they went all “Almighty” and dropped the ball entirely).

Consequently, you know what to expect – raw vocals, but less reliance on speedy tremelo riffs than bouncier, folky ones ala Taake, touches of acoustic folk ala Manegarm, etc. etc.

Not bad at all…but again, unless you’re looking for a fix of “more of the same, but newer”, you’ve heard this all before.

Whether “better” or no, I leave to the listener…but no shade on Vaatainen implied, this album is easily the best and most repeat-listenable of the three Eisenwald releases this month.

Pyramaze – Melancholy Beast [re-issue] (Inner Wound Recordings) (November 24)

We’d reviewed their Contingent back in March, and found the band rather likeable in prog metal terms, but saddled with an incongrously grunge-style Chris Cornell wannabe as a vocalist.

Well, this album shows what the same band could, should’ve and in fact did sound like with a proper vocalist, working with a far more appropriate clean singing/occasionally soaring toned power/prog frontman (former vocalist Lance King, who stuck around for two albums before leaving the band with a decidedly rotating lead chair).

Taken in isolation, it’s a fairly typical if very likeably melodic and structured power/prog affair, with King coming off like a cross between former Eden’s Curse frontman Michael Eden, Royal Hunt/Silent Force vocalist DC Cooper and perhaps a tonal hint of more recent vintage Michael Kiske. Aside from a bit too much “head voice” and singing through his front teeth ala Geoff Tate, there’s absolutely nothing to fault in the man’s performance here.

Production is excellent, keyboard accompaniment is tasteful and offers extra lushness to the mix, guitar and drums are unimpeachable, though neither really stands out – this is a midrange, full band effort that works well in tandem more than any sort of individual showcase for respective members therein.

Again, while you can certainly tell this is essentially the same band in terms of the backing, Melancholy Beast is so far removed from the Soundgardenisms of Terje Haroy and Contingent as to seem a different band entirely. Like it or not, you can have the greatest band in the world, but if the frontman fails you in any measure…you’re kind of stuck.

No better proof by comparison than hearing Melancholy Beast not all that long after Contingent.

So…any chance of getting King back on board, guys? Hmm?

Four and a half stars easy, particularly for the genre and style they’re working in.

Movements – Feel Something (Fearless Records) (October 27)

Alternative rock is still a thing?

Apparently so, because California’s Movements bring a pleasant mix of 90’s alternative, early millenial pop-punk and emo to the table, referencing everything from the whiny nerd rock of Weezer and Speck (of “conventional lover” fame) to Good Charlotte through Senses Fail.

You can tell they’re pretty young, just from the vocals (which alternate between an uncertain nasal geekiness to the expected bratty whine and pout of the pop-punk and emo scenes, with just a hint of the “I’m so upset with YOOOOOOOOOUUUU!!!!” end of phrase build to a scream business so endemic to the latter.

Even so, the band’s sound is polished and tight, for all the jangly REM meets Echo & the Bunnymen by way of emo clean to overdriven (and overlaid) ringing open string guitars.

There’s a lot of interplay and at least descant if not intimations towards counterpoint going on between the bass and guitars at certain points (as in the verses of “colorblind”), and if you don’t automatically crinkle the nose and turn off when you hear the word “emo”, you’ll find yourself strangely drawn in to the busy yet oddly straightforward feeling world of dark emotion they build.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even start to feel something.

cough

Yeah, this isn’t exactly metal, or old school punk, even, much less gothic in any way…but if you can take a visit to your local Hot Topic or listening to this stuff on the radio, you should be pleasantly surprised at just how well Movements pulls all the expected strands…and a few unexpected ones, as well…together here, polishing it all to a shining patina veneer before handing it to the quizzical listener on a silver platter.

I was good with it, yeah.

Autobahn – The Moral Crossing (Tough Love Records) (November 3)

You know, from album opener “prologue”, I thought we were looking at a pleasant jangly guitar driven indie pop circa the mid-90’s – anything from the Darling Buds to later Altered Images, with a dash of that era’s Britpop movement as added garnish.

Then “obituary” kicks off, and it’s all angry sociopolitical ranting and a bit of a harder, 80’s postpunk edge, much akin to The Fall crossed with The Bolshoi (and a bit of The Jam’s early edge). NOW I’m well chuffed.

But then they throw a serious curveball at ya – now it’s synthpop krautrock, very Rheingold meets Belanova (but with touches of 90’s shoegaze and Flock of Seagulls to spruce the mix). Interesting, I like a lot of that stuff, but where the hell did this come from and why is it sandwiched between the two songs that surround it?

Then we’re back to the Red Lorry Yellow Lorryish to Danse Society postpunk leaning gothic rock, mid-80’s UK style for “the moral crossing”. Again, right in the old wheelhouse, I’m happy.

I’m not quite sure where they were going with “the torment” – all that French female narration felt rather Celtic Frost circa Into the Pandemonium, but then it gets more Unknown Pleasures era Joy Division by way of Secession (of “sneakyville” fame). Again, works just fine, but strange…

Another track or two in Ian Curtis mode, then back to the Ritual meets Gang of Four angry postpunk thing for “execution”. A few more tracks of weirdness (they go all over the place, honestly), then it’s Depeche Mode (when they actually mattered, pre-Violator) for “vessel”.

Well, they certainly hit all the right retro 80’s (and 90’s) beat points, eh?

Overall, I’d classify Autobahn as UK postpunk, 80’s style, but with elements that lean decidedly Deutscher synthpop and border very much on classic first wave UK gothic rock (just look at some of the bands referenced, and where they fall on that scale).

I did find it overly varied – that has to be a different singer for the more strident shouted material over the more subdued goth leaning and krautrock tracks, and while all of this plays right up my alley (not a band referenced here I don’t at least enjoy, if not absolutely love) it tends to be rather jarring jumping from one style to the next.

Bottom line, very good band, no question, this is one to grab ASAP.

You just want to set up a playlist, and separate each track into its general style bucket – that way, you’ll have a few gothy tracks, a few more political (post)punk ones, and a few German-style synthpop tracks in groups of threes and fours.

You know, so you can actually get into a mood and stay there for more than 4 minutes.

But yeah, I thought these geezers were ace, wot?

SMOTHERED BOWELS – DEAD C*NT DANCE (BIZARRE LEPROUS PRODUCTIONS) (October 11)

Well, it’s grindcore, specifically “goregrind”. Wet gargle growls leaning pig squeals, droning blastbeat and mud “riffs”…and Jerry Lewis impersonations for some unknown reason.

I guess if Cinderfella going abrasively grind to shock the very audiences who find him somehow amusing is your cup of tea…

Very, very juvenile lyrically, very basic and simplistic musically and the vocals come off like a clogged toilet that won’t stop flushing.

With occasional reminders of Who’s Minding the Store or Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River tossed in for…who the hell knows. Laughs?

I’m not laughing.

Whizzzz!

Damn, watch those flames kindle. This one must’ve been quite deserving.

Next?

Eleine – “HELL MOON (We Shall Never Die)” (Black Lodge Records) (September 22)

We reviewed their self titled a few months back – this is an entirely new single, not found on that album.

While still not a million miles removed from the Lacuna Coillike vibe of the earlier full length, “hell moon” finds the band growing and improving somewhat, leaning far more towards a proper gothic symphonic sound than the more simplistic and nu metallish variant of “gothic metal” the Italians more properly inhabit.

It’s hard to build a worthwhile and far reaching opinion based on a mere single, but I can tell you that the Eleine I’m hearing here would seem to be a damn sight more of interest than the one covered just a few months back…so kudos.

Here’s hoping the inevitable second album follows suit.

  

The Parity Complex – S/T (Dead End Exit Records) (November 24)

Geez, that photo in the white, she looks just like an old ladyfriend of mine…wrong hair color, though.  Still kinda bizarre – I thought Linda Hayden and Vanessa Howard had strong facial similarities to her, but this is downright weird

Anyway, what you get here is a quirky, electronic-based alterna/post-metal act whose guitarist and bassist also work synthesizer and whose drummer also handles “samples”. Sounds more like Depeche Mode than metal to me…

Vocalist Johanna Wennstrom works a midrange pop/rock vocal, somewhere between clean and raspy and coming off sorta like Lizzy Hale crossed with Amy Lee (at a rather vague approximation on either end). Mostly alto range, but hits a few high notes on both whispery clean and sorta-screamed “emotionally intense” phrases. It’s hardly screamo, much less Angela Gossow territory, even when she tosses a few metalcoreish BLEEEEAAHHHs into the mix, so no worries – she’s entirely listenable and consonant throughout.

There’s really nothing “metal” about this at all, unless you’re thinking odd crossover offshoots like “dark metal” or the poppiest, most electronically-bedecked variants of radio-friendly “gothic metal”…I’m more inclined to classify this as “gothic electro-pop” than “metal” in any way.

Even so, Wennstrom provides a fetching alterna-frontwoman for those of more adventurous tastes (cough), and bears a pleasant tonality even in the most strident of moments, which is refreshing in a day and age saturated with hip hop wannabes, air raid siren howlers and cookie monster growler types, all of whom just come off as ridiculous and grate on the ears…certainly not something you can say about Wennstrom, a rare phrase of the latter now and again (most pointedly on “the withering” and “shackles”) aside.

Best track by a longshot: “violence”. Nothing else here even comes close.

Very good for what it is. Just don’t call it “metal”.

  

SOYUZ BEAR – Black Phlegm (Zanjeer Zani Productions) (October 31)

Doomy, grinding, somewhat blackened death-crust.

You can make vague parallels to Dopethrone, but this is less properly “doom” and certainly not as “stoner” as Electric Wizard – it’s more of a Celtic Frost (or Hellhammer, or Sorrow, or even Dream Death for that matter) at their slowest and most sloppy, to the point where you start approaching funeral doom. Hell, there’s even a bit of Chopin’s funeral march in “dying people”, so you get the idea.

I guess if you apply the term more loosely than I tend to (to the point where you start thinking Red Fang may actually be a doom band), the safest bet is to call Soyuz Bear a sludge doom act. They’re certainly much akin to a certain branch of doom/death (think Incantation, Anatomia or Sorrow here).

I’m always good with this stuff – it’s laid back, mellow, even kinda relaxing, but with a seriously pissed off core simmering away throughout.

Yeah, I was good with these lumbering, sludge loving Frenchmen, to be sure. Well worth a look if any of the above references pique your interest.

Sar Isatum – “Sar Isatum” (single) (self released)

Symphonic black metal. They’re more Norsecorish and sinister than a Dimmu, less singsongy than a Gloomy Grim and far less expansive, polished or deliciously Decadent than Cradle, so expect more of a Marduk with the folkish bounciness of Taake, but with Crimson Moonlightlike keyboard accompaniment throughout.

Actually, that’s a really good comparison band. Sar Isatum is very much the Coloradan (and non-“unblack metal”) Crimson Moonlight.

I liked that band’s earliest material (Songs from the Archives in particular), so this didn’t sound horrible to me.

But who knows whether a full length of this will hold up so well, or simply collapse under the weight of its own intrinsic tedium (like post-Covenant Progress Crimson Moonlight did before them).

Tempus videbitur.

Or if you prefer, time will tell…

Hidden Intent – “Apocalypse Now” (self released) (October 3)
“Addicted to Thrash”
Walking Through Hell

OK, to judge mainly by the Addicted to Thrash single, this is an absolutely killer Aussie thrash act, albeit with a slightly marble-mouthed, Sacred Reichesque vocalist adding a touch of humor to the proceedings.

You could also say Prong, as some of the more throaty moments feel decidedly Tommy Victor, but either way, it’s “acceptable but not exactly on the good end” for the genre.

Him aside, the band is rather straightforward, driving and aggressive without feeling overly modern, even with the uber-clean, all instruments right up in your face production of, yet again, our old pal “Zeuss” (Forgotten Tomb).

Apparently they’ve been on tour with Artillery (so when the hell is someone going to reissue By Inheritance, hmm? Another one going for crackhead-only prices on the resale market…), which seems pretty apropos for the relentlessly driving thrash grind on display here, particularly on the Addicted to Thrash single.

Things slow down and get more Pronglike (or 90’s per se) on the Apocalypse Now single, neither of whose tracks does the band any real favors (though the title track blows B-side “petrified” all to shit).

Their full length Walking Through Hell, while a few years earlier than either single, brings those Prong influences right to the fore (particularly on the title track).

They’re not helped by the first four tracks sounding very much alike (how Gama Bomb of them!), but thankfully the songs become more diverse as you approach the midpoint of the album, with “get what you can get” falling somewhere between Sacred Reich and Xentrix (or possibly even D-A-M) and “good friday thrash” sounding a bit Anthrax. Subsequent tracks even bring hints of Flotsam & Jetsam, perhaps even a whisper of Coronerlike progressiveness to the table.

Bottom line, this is a decent thrash band, but one who only really shines on the Addicted to Thrash single…both Apocalypse Now and Walking Through Hell are far more spotty propositions.

Who knows, maybe a lot of this comes down to a cross between speed and relentlessness in riffing (not always the case on the two aforementioned) and production (which is far more suitable to their sound and approach, not to mention feeling far more vintage, on the Addicted single than in either of the other cases).

All I can tell you is, check out Addicted to Thrash (“b/w Eternal Rest” as they used to say back in the day)…if you like it, maybe you’ll be OK with the rest, if a bit disappointed that they seem to have lost that fire, feel and vibe so impeccably displayed therein.

Pile of Priests – “Redemptionem Per Cruciatu” (self released) (October 6)

Geez, 5 minutes never felt so long!

Death metal, but overly busy, suggesting a decided deathrash orientation.

Vocals are kind of silly and overstated (I guess if you picture Luc Lemay getting all google eyed and reeeeally overly into it, it might sound something like this…otherwise, just cut to the chase and picture Cookie Monster himself. It’s that level of goofy.

The band kind of lumbers along at a hesitant pace for 4/5 of the track, before suddenly someone lights a fire under the guitarist’s ass and you get a much better song…for the solo and outro.

That last minute, without the vox and with the band actually up to a typical midtempo death metal tempo? Was absolutely killer.

Just have to skip through the wasted 4 minutes prior…no idea how these guys will sound on a full length. I join the evil priest on the cover in “praying” there’ll be a whole hell of a lot more of that last minute than the doofy snoozefest that came before it.

Undercroft – The Seventh Hex (Morbid Skull Records) (September 15) 

Chilean death metal act with a weird overreliance on detuned thunka-thunka “groove” riffs (complete with phrases growly-shouted Anselmo style alternating with the more proper, but oddly seldom utilized death growls).

Guess which parts work (and quite well at that) and which ones suck some serious ass.

Worse? Guess which ones predominate throughout.

Damn, I thought I hated grunge and “gangsta rap” most of all faux-“musical” tropes.

Fucking Anselmo and Pantera, you have a LOT to answer for…and increasingly moreso, as the years wear on and the copycats and influence spread and increase.

Hot stock tip: invest in Fleet. We’ve got sooooo many “metal” bands in dire need of an enema, it’s jaw dropping.

 

Dekapited – Sin Misericordia EP (Re-issue) (Morbid Skull Records (El Salvador)

Aah, this is more like it. Good ol’ fashioned South American blackthrash, this time out of Chile.

Apparently their lyrical bent hails more from the Bay Area school of thrash, talking sociopolitics, malfeasance on the part of society and its supposed “leaders” and the struggle for change to something better…but who knows, I’m just picking that up from the promo materials, mi Espanol es muy oxidado.

Even so, this is full on, hyperspeed, nigh-Merciless Awakening-style relentless thrashing speed and vio-gression, but performed with just enough tightness and assuredness to keep from going off the rails.

You bet your sweet ass I liked this.

Thrash away, amigos. Time to start a fucking pit.

Paroxsihzem – S/T (Krucyator Productions) (November 2)

We’d reviewed this Toronto black/death act’s Abyss of Excruciating Vexes and…well, liked Krang and his android vocals, anyway.

This time around, the Craig Pillard soundalike (and squishy brainlike Turtles adversary from Dimension X) is bolstered somewhat by a more traditonal (if Incantation-sludgy) death metal backing.

It’s still a bit overly tremelo based (i.e. blackened) and feels too damn busy (i.e. approaching tech in the same sense as the ridiculous Cannibal Corpse), but at least it’s ominous, murky and can pass as death metal proper for the most part…which is exactly what Pillard…I mean Krang’s Incantation/Mortician-style death belches are suited to front.

No major band member changes between the two releases (just a drummer swap), so I guess it’s just that four years between (this one came first chronologically) that shoved ’em too far down the rabbit hole.

Much better than Abyss of Excruciating Verses, and while the bullshit injection has already begun to infect ’em, far more death metal proper than the annoying black/death BS they’ve since become associated with.

If you’re going to try ’em out, this is the one to head for.

Auroch – From Forgotten Worlds (Krucyator Productions) (November 2)

More black/death from Canada, this time from Vancouver.

Once again, like at least this album from Paroxsihzem, they have far more of a death metal vibe than the usual Swe-black/death Watain Wannabe Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards bullshit the genre is generally comprised of.

Some really nice, leaning wild guitar solos that speak to as much of a Trey Azagthoth influence as a James Murphy one, chugging riffs, throaty growl vox, even a few Suffocation lifted harmonic squeals (hey, if Killswitch can steal that idea…)

Guitarist Sebastian Montesi is the real draw here, but he’s so over the top of everything else that you have to pay attention – Torchia sounded positively understated by comparison.

I liked that.

May not be a recurring go-to, but not a bad album therefore – while the riffs and vocals were a real shrug of the shoulders, I certainly enjoyed Montesi’s lead work throughout.

You know, like Disincarnate or post-Van Drunen Pestilence.

MOEBIUS – Hybris (K2 Management) (October 20)

Oy, more Pantera worship on the vocal end. On the band side, things veer further away from aggro and more towards nu metal gone a tad (atonally) progressive.

The sound is weird, but at least from the guitar solos and off kilter yet busy double bass and kitwork-driven drum patterns you can tell it’s not performed by shit musicians at all – this is very deliberate, likeably so or not.

Apparently the band even chose their name in relation to the Moebius strip and the mathematician who coined that theorem cum general use phrase, so it’s not really surprising that elements of “math metal” or “tech death” come into play here…and honestly, this Watchtower gone wrong end of their sound is exactly what saves Moebius from their Pantera-esque affectations (detuned, groove-to-nu riffing and BLEEEAHHH BURRRPP GAAAHHH aggro vox).

Because Watchtower and Cynic, I’m good with.

If you can stomach the “vocals”, hang in there for a song or two…listen to the drummer. Then check out those constantly altering machine gun riffs that fill many of the verses, and the airy if a tad aimless lead breaks.

You may be as surprised as I was to find a very good bunch of musicians hiding there beneath the shit aggro influences.

Tune up those guitars, get a real singer, drop the doofy aggro/nu phrasings…and I’d be singing their praises here, instead of just expressing surprise at their impressive musicianship.

Looking forward to hearing more from this label, this certainly piqued my interest.

ZGARD – Within The Swirl Of Black Vigor (October 21)

We’d reviewed their Totem and Contemplation and always really liked this one man Ukrainian band. Pagan metal at its finest, Zgard manages to take elements of Manegarm, Kroda and even (at a slight stretch) Graveland, but amps up the power and polish, offering a well produced, lush sounding and very full audio experience only slightly marred by the man’s Burzumesque vocal shrieks (which could at least have been buried deeper in the mix).

The fact that you get a visit from Slovenian Ta Grdi (or what Rick Steves was told are referred to as “The Ugly Ones” by locals – see, you can learn stuff from public TV!) on the cover suggests a more than cursory awareness of local heritage, and there’s the expected traditional instrumentation mixed in with the lush keyboards, tremelo guitars and blastbeat drumming.

Nothing “new” by any means – but seldom quite so well done as a total package.

Raise your torches in salute…then get out there and grab yourself a copy. Maybe pick up his last two albums at the same time, they’re all rather good.

Na zdorov’ye, comrade.

Bulletback – The Quest For New Horizons

Brazilian heavy/US-style power metal band, not that you’d ever be able to tell their South American origins if I didn’t tell ya.

Very straight ahead, with heavy, pounding riffs, gravel-toned but powerful and clean soaring vocals, gang backing vocal-punctuated choruses, blues-rock based leads, midtempo typewriter double bass drumming with a bit more cymbal work than you’d expect…you’d think this came out of the Midwest or perhaps Germany.

The only caveat is that you shouldn’t be thinking classic/traditional metal here, or even 80’s US power metal – Bulletback is working very much of a “modern metal” production and tonality throughout.

I guess you could think Chris Broderick-era Jag Panzer or post-Andy Michaud Liege Lord crossed with a bit of Frontierslike AOR cum Euro-power metal both vocally and in terms of a more “modern” feel, but that’s not exactly right or what I’m trying to get at here.

Take your favorite US power metal or even classic thrash band, and listen to what their albums and sound were like circa the early millenium. Very different beast from what they were known for in their 80’s heyday, right? But not necessarily “modern” either…Bulletback is working that same nebulous tightrope betwixt and between vintage stylings and modernist tropes.

It’s all rather listenable, but not retro enough to really excite me – this is more like a worthy break in the playlist than a regular go-to.

Even so, very strong effort from these relative newcomers, and well worth giving a quick spin to see if it grabs ya.

Coraxo – Sol (Snow Wave Records) (November 23)

More or less melodeath, but with some seriously weird touches that actually take the train way the hell off the rails more often than not.

A Romeo Voidlike saxophone on “of stars reborn”? Keyboards on “retrograde”? A nigh-Belanova synthpop and bratty female vocalled “revenants”?

Oh, and it’s all tied together (however loosely) by an Iron Savioresque SF “storyline”.

Apparently this one’s all about “humanity’s battle against the Lovecraftian cosmic terror Starlit Flame”. Okay, sounds interesting…but yeah, that’s all I have to go by on that end.

Well, parts definitely work…I actually liked some of the clean sung tracks and the utterly bizarre excursions wayyyyy the hell outside of template melodeath…but all crammed together, Sol…and Coraxo, for that matter, comes off more like a multiband compilation album than any sort of a cohesive whole, much less one band with a rather unique and skewed vision.

I liked too much of this to give it any sort of downer review, much less a slag…but this is some seriously fucked up shit.

Can’t say it wasn’t interesting!

If you’re looking for something really, really different…there’s a rather good, if overly eclectic and bizarre album right here waiting for you.

Internal Chaos – Chaotic Sounds Propagation (June 28)

Symphonic, more or less melodeath affair with traditional instrumentation (there’s a whole lot of wailing fiddles and suchlike here).

The music is fairly busy when the band kicks in to high gear, with the string accompaniment, lead lines and chugging, vaguely Megadethesque riffing (in terms of sheer busyness rather than any stylistic similarities, mind), but it’s all subsumed into a lush, rather full sounding symphonic sound.

Clean vocals are pleasantly smooth and fit rather well, but as usual, there’s also the aggro-growly vox to deal with…and sorry, but anyeurism-baiting constipation has never been acceptable, 5 billion Phil Anselmo wannabes to the contrary.

Hint – this is the exact reason why older and more traditional metal fans laugh derisively at the current scene on the whole…it’s the screamo/aggro/nu shit, kids. You’ve got the general idea otherwise – nobody’s going to knock ya for playing a bit in the outfield, so long as you’re in the right ballpark and playing by Queensbury rules. But those shit screamo growly vocals have got to stop…

Anyway, that’s just one really sore thumb (or more to the point, hunk of broken glass) amidst an otherwise reasonably tasty confection.

It’s a bit different, the dish may come with a funny name and hail from a very different culture from your own…but so long as you don’t swallow that trojan horse and rip up your insides as a consequence, there’s some rather likeable symphonic/death crossover to be found herein.

Maybe slip a little prune juice in with the fig and tamarind one, problem solved. He’ll be singing like a bird.

 

Kroh – Pyres (October 13)

This one kicks off on its best foot, then mellows out considerably.

Hit play, and an older school death metal riffing* mixes with more of a modern punk/metalcore sensibility. The guitar tone is raw and doomy, more akin to an Autopsy or stoner doom act than you’d expect.

* later tracks get far more pointedly death/doom to stoner doom than opener “Rigor Mortis”, so yeah.

Then tag in “occult rock”-ish alto vocals (with a thick Northern accent…you’d think they recruited Siouxsie Sioux here), and you’ve got Kroh, a Birmingham act fronted by Polish-born (but apparently Birmingham-raised, or at least rather well acclimated!) Oliwia Sobieszek. I guess you could make a case for her sounding a bit Ace of Base as well, but you can’t fake the Brummie…

Anyway, by the time you’ve worked your way through the album’s five tracks, the overall impression is of a weird mix of Cathedral/With the Dead/Electric Wizardish doom, with hints of stoner and, at least on the opening track, metalcore or emo-leaning punk, with lighter, Unsun-ish female vocals.

I liked this just fine, but it’s unclear just what they were aiming for as a band – is it a particularly poppy gothic/stoner doom? Doom-death/metalcore? Drugged out Swedish pop gone dark?

I guess your best approach is to walk into Pyres expecting a rather atypically female-fronted, radio-gothic metal take on stoner-vibe doom or death/doom, and go from there.

Actually surprised this one didn’t hail from Rise Above, these guys seem very much up their alley.

Unusual as all get out, but likeably so.

  

WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND – S/T (Heaven and Hell Records) (October 20)

OK, this isn’t just some hipster snark riff on Scotland’s Average White Band…there’s a history here.

Apparently, this Nashville (by way of Virginia) kid took (of all people) Ron Keel’s place in the Sly Stonelike mixed-race band Taboo (Keel and later Mike “White Boy” Matney were the sole Caucasians in the lineup…hey, I’ve been there myself, bro – and in several instances, back there in the 90’s.)  Connections through the band got him recording time for his own project, which he barely finished recording and pressing a small run of before the studio gig was taken away from him.

Long story short, that small print run from the early 80’s is now commanding high prices…and the sadly expected Russian bootleg copies are flooding the market. What’s a guy to do?

So here we are, and that very album is back in legit print for the first time in nearly 40 years. What do you get?

Well, think of a cross between the heavier end of 70’s rock (Rick Derringer comes very much to mind here, possibly Montrose), early 80’s types like Greg Kihn and The Knack, but as informed by the more Southern-Fried likes of Webb Wilder or The Beat Farmers…then amp the rocking vibe and (tinny) distortion up to 11.

It’s quirky, and definitely the product of a singular (even naive) vision…but damn if this won’t rock your socks off.

Yeah, I liked this one quite a bit.

Grab it before it goes out of print for another 40 years…you’ll definitely regret missing out on this.

Sanguine Pluit – There is a Goddess in the Forest (Deluxe Edition) (June 2)

Beneath that absolutely gorgeous cover lies a rather pointless excursion in sort-of black metal, somewhat akin to, but far less interesting than, Aakon Keetreh (of Les Legions Noires and Dans la Foret fame), this time coming out of Italy.

Demo-quality or less guitars drone on, occasionally drums sort of stumble in and out, keyboards offer long piercing stings…and never once does a proper song gel.

All instrumental, and you can’t even call it properly atmospheric in all its disjointedness.

Pass.

NO AMNESTY – Psychopathy (Xtreem Music) (November 14)

Oy.

Well, the band’s pretty much modern thrash with a definite Bay Area meets US power metal vibe in play.

The problem…as ever…is with the vocals.

You know when Rob Halford went all screechy and abrasive on Painkiller? Or when Tim “Ripper” Owens copied that, first with Ohio Priest cover band Stained Class, then with Priest themselves on Jugulator?

OK, now cross that with the I just got goosed vibe of Annihilator’s Randy Rampage or San Antonio Slayer’s Steve Cooper, the more clownish end of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s delivery with Overkill and the gargled glass rasp of new Hexx frontman Eddy Vega, but without the ability to hold tones and soar a bit at the end of phrases, and you’ve got this dude.

Is he a deal breaker?

Nah, not when the band is this good otherwise – this is vintage power/thrash metal in the best sense, complete with good, melodic solos and crunchy riffs. Even his Sarah Jane Smith-style WHOOPS i was GOOSED every few WORDS thing is a definite homage towards many of the bands that were there back in the day, particularly the second and third tier, more “obscure” ones I’ve been delving into more of late.

But does he just come off fucking silly more often than not?

Hugh Betcha.

Very good band, overall, I’m giving ’em a raised fist and a well deserved dive into the pit.

COME BACK FROM THE DEAD (Spain) – Caro Data Vermibus  (Metallic Red-embossed Box Set / Digipak CD /  Merch / Digital) (Transcending Obscurity Records (India)  (November 30) 1

A particularly crusty Spanish take on death metal.

Music, while exceedingly simple and straightforward, works just fine (think somewhere between Discharge and your average Hells Headbangers release – Midnight, Shitfucker, you name it), but the vox suck some serious ass – think of some Anselmo growly-screamer, but at the end of the night, nearly passed out drunk and laying on his back, barely holding the mic to his lips to record this.

BLUUUUUUHH! BLUUUHHHH-BLUUHHH-BLUH-BLUH! GARRRRRR (urp!)

Maybe that’s why they credited this guy as “Throat”…he’s barely enunciating and just pushing the screamo crap past the inevitable wave of vomit.

Somebody check on him, we don’t need another Jimi or Bon situation…

sigh.

Once again, the pain point comes down entirely to perfectly shite “vocals”.

Oh, well…next?

MARGINAL – Total Destruction (Transcending Obscurity Records (India) (December 15)

Grindcore, but of a more recognizably old school variety.

If you dig bands like Terrorizer, early Carcass, Repulsion and Discharge (or for that matter, the uber-simplistic and repetitive thrash of Hirax), Marginal should feel fairly comfortable – there are discernible, if droning, simple and repetetive riffs being thrown down here, the guitars are right up front, the drumming is just as much retro kitwork and footwork as it is blastbeat bullshit (actually somewhat moreso, which was nice for a change), and the whole thing felt quite familiar and listenable.

Hell, one of those riffs on “delirium tremens” even sounded very Consuming Impulse-era Pestilence…good by me.

This is the kind of grindcore I can actually get into. Nice work, guys.

Definitely worth a listen if this is your thing.

Screw “excuse me”…this guy’s just spelled relief in a major way, and he’s damn proud of it! “Smell the fumes!”

GREYTOMB (Australia) – Monumental Microcosm (Transcending Obscurity Records (India) (December 19)

Post-black metal, with all the emphasis on open space and atmospheric introspection that so often implies.

As a diehard black metaller for a good two decades, there, there’s a part of me that cringes and crinkles the nose in revulsion at these sort of “poseur”, hipsterish uses of what was a very dark and underground statement of rebellion and embrace of the darkest paths to more lighthearted and indie to emo leaning ends – about halfway through opener “null” and you’ll be smacked right across the face with it.

But there’s another part of me that’s always embraced creative syncretism, at least when it’s used with some modicum of class and balance – just listen to any of the four podcast’s themes and promos, with their mix of metal stylistics, Santana meets Hendrixisms, funk and jazz tropes and punk DIY “play the ball where it lies, warts and all” attitude. You wouldn’t have that from someone locked into icy reproduction of one specific style as performed in its heyday, no excuses.

So getting back to Greytomb, here we have a three song, 25 minute EP that holds to many recognizable stylistic tropes of black metal, while remaining wholly unashamed of its unabashed emo/metalcorish screamo vox and more indie feeling clean vox/experimental to ambient orientation.

I can’t say I was really in love with this…but its dreamy but darker than Alcestish introspective to “Cascadian” black metal base left it relaxing and quite listenable, confused to annoying vocals aside.

I guess you can call that a win of sorts.

Now the ball’s in your park.

Wojczech (Germany) / Krupskaya (UK) – Split 12″ (7 Degrees Records (Germany) (October 27)

Another surprisingly listenable to likeable grindcore act this month, Germany’s Wojczech leans speedy, but retains enough midtempo vibe and actual discernible riffs to leave them on the positive end of the grindcore spectrum.

Hell, skip the unintelligible DAA-DAA-GAAA-GAAA baby talk snarls and belches and blastbeat phrases, and you could almost take ’em for a particularly crusty death metal act proper. And not a pig noise in sight…already leaps and bounds over the contemporary grindcore scene by that alone!

The UK’s Krupskaya, on the other hand…is pretty damn typical. Pure noise, poorly recorded (all hiss throughout and tape edits on the drums – a few dozen of those stop/starts aren’t real, kids) and performed at Atari Teenage Riot computerized speed, with some black metal Dani Filth GAAA-YAAA-SNAAAAA-GYEEEEAAHHHH!-ing above the whole mess. Utter dogshit.

So this is a pretty weird split, in the end…showing what grindcore can be (Wojczech), as contrasted with what it sadly is (Krupskaya).

All that’s missing is the pig squeals…

Get it for Wojczech, you have my permission to take a steak knife and cut deep gouges into your CD or vinyl all over the Krupskaya tracks.

It’ll probably sound like a major improvement!

MEYHNACH – Non Omnis Moriar (Osmose Productions) (November 24)

If it weren’t for some of the awkwardly dissonant to atonal black metal riffing, you’d never know this hails from one of the prime movers in the classic Les Legions Noires.

About a million miles removed from Vampires of Black Imperial Blood, Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul or even Black Millenium, here we find an older Meyhnach experimenting with a sort of doomy black/death. Emphasis definitely on the black, but very much in the first wave, lumbering and death metallish vein thereof.

I guess you could make vague comparisons to Mortuary Drape, or at a real stretch earlier Death SS here, but that’s really a reach…this is strange, alright, but less traditional feeling, listenable or likeable than either act’s earlier material.

If anything, it’s as if the former Mutiilation mainman was trying to ape fellow scene leaders Vlad Tepes, but couldn’t quite grasp what made either his or their sound actually work, winding up with something far stranger and more sluggish as a result.

It’s not bad, at least if you’re as big on the classic French black metal scene (or for that matter, the Italian first wave thereof) as I was, but don’t expect a comeback album from Mutiilation here…this is something entirely different, and much, much harder to get into.

You can sit through it easily enough, that’s not the issue…

…it’s just would you ever want to hear it again, or consider actually laying down a few bucks to own that’s in question.

I’ll give the man the benefit of the doubt out of respect for his earlier classics of the genre – there’s enough in play herein to recognize that yeah, this is the same guy responsible…just going off the rails onto some other track entirely.

   

Ne Obliviscaris – Urn (Season Of Mist) (October 27)

Aussie death (almost melodeath in a way, but not Gothenburg-style at all), but with a decidedly symphonic bent. Hell, you could almost call ’em Pagan/symphonic, with the dual violin accompaniment, gang-chant backing vox, clean and light mixed with death/aggro growl vocals and arena-ready lushness of sound.

But then there’s a bit of tech death thrown into the mix (the Death/Echoes of Eternity-style machine gun riffing of “eyrie”, some of the lead guitar tones and lines, etc. If you took out the death growls and mellowed the drummer out, they could almost be mistaken for some ersatz prog act proper. And the violin emphasis felt pretty good to this longtime Jean Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa fan (not in that order, but you get the idea).

It’s an interesting mix.

Extremely listenable (most enjoyable one reviewed thus far today, in fact) and very much on the ball musically speaking…plus with that wide open, “epic” feel playing into things. They’ll probably be huge on the festival circuit, let’s put it that way.

Yeah, I liked Urn quite a bit, in fact.

Could stand to hear more acts like this, if there are any floating around out there.

Damn good stuff, overall.

Vardan – Nostalgia – Archive Of Failures – Part I
               Nostalgia – Archive Of Failures – Part II
               Nostalgia – Archive Of Failures – Part III
               (Moribund Records) (November 24)

You know, we’ve reviewed Vardan since wayyyyyy back, first covering the man in 2013 for Dreaming…Living my Funeral, and rarely missing coverage of a release thereafter, with The Woods is my Coffin, Enjoy of Deep SadnessVerses from Ancient Times, The Night, the LonelinessDespicable Broken HopeWinter WoodsBetween the Fog and Shadows and From the Pale Moonlight all getting coverage in these pages.

And if you take the time to dig back and check out all those reviews, you’ll see that seldom if ever have we given the man a less than stellar writeup – his brand of melancholic, introspective one man black metal has always resonated and simply worked for yours truly.

So as you might expect, this trio of releases similarly proves the man’s worth as a highly individual composer/performer, continuing his darkly idiosyncratic vision that crosses the likes of Mortiis Era 1 side project Vond with a more Italian black metal quirkiness and a greater emphasis on old school guitar and drums-driven black metal propulsion.

Of the three, Part 1 is the most traditional and driving, and most likely to appeal to old school black metallers unaccustomed to Vardan’s work. Parts 2 and 3 are more for Vardan aficionados, with 3 bearing a somewhat Winter Woods/The Night, The Loneliness vibe and 2 being the least of the lot, much akin to From the Pale Moonlight in approach and feel.

Now, if you go back and look at that review, you’ll see that’s nothing to sneeze at either…but those new to Vardan should definitely stick to Part 1, then progress to Part 3 if it grabs ya sufficiently.

Part 2 is for the hardcore fans only, particularly with the awkward shriek-vox he adopts therein, which come off rather different from his usual Rob Darkenish vocal approach.

Hey, I loved ’em all…but that’s hardly a surprise.

Raise the horns.

 

Ayat – Carry on, Carrion (Moribund Records) (November 24)

Oddball “extreme metal” act out of war-torn Beirut.

Particularly in the current global climate, it’s good to report that they’re decidedly anti-oppression and repression, be it in the form of frothing mouthed “religious” governments or straight up politicosocial malfeasance.

They’re rude, crude and very straight to the point – check out some of the song titles, and you’re hit with the distinct realization that if they were recorded and performed on their home turf, they’d probably wind up on one of those nasty beheading videos. These guys are bold and unafraid to speak their minds, no question – so already, count on at least a nod of respect for their social Libertarian, anti-authoritarian stance on free speech and freedom of action.

That said…the music sounds like GWAR gone sorta black metal on the vox.

There’s a vaguely punkish bounce and 90’s aggro/nu metal feel to the riffing, buried beneath the nigh-grindcore high speed drumming, deathrashisms and screamy-shriek black metal goes aggro vox…that leaves them something of an irritating to the ear question mark, musically.

I mean, you may (at a huge stretch) be able to draw some pretzel logic lines to the most abrasive vintage thrash to deathrash acts (Morbid Saint, Demolition Hammer, even Solstice), but that’s reeeeeeeeally working the old taffy pull, you know what I’m saying?

So. Did I like this in any way other than their unashamed to obnoxiously anti-authoritarian politicosocial stance?

No, not in the least.

But the crass juvenalia of some of their chosen expression aside, due respect for standing up against that bullshit, whether it come from the PC “intersectionalist” Left or the rabidly, willfully stupid Trumpian Right; from the abrasively irreligious to the oppressively religious – against the uptight and demanding of social, economic or authoritarian controls over the individual in any way, shape or form.

Because ALL of you assholes can go fuck yourselves sideways with a knife, with my compliments.

Begerith – A.D.A.M. (Minotauro Records) (November 10)

Russian (now geographically Polish) black/death act…and that explains a lot, because they’re working that whole post-Grom Behemoth thing.

Look, they do the death metallish (or at least Belphegorlike) double bass and kitwork to blastbeat drumming thing, the riffing, when pointedly going “death”, does stick to a more machine gun busyness and the production, while prone to high end hiss and signal bleed, is fairly full.  They even have some Therion meets Cradle of Filthlike keyboard accompaniment at points.

But does this sound really work for me, as either black metal proper or as (black metallers masquerading as) death metal?

mmm…inoffensive if I’m in a certain mood, which I seem to be in today.
But kind of a shrug of the shoulders either way.

Flames of Genesis – A Bridge to Further Realms (Minotauro Records) (November 10)

Ambient space music.

The easy go-to is Tangerine Dream, but there’s less of an expansive, old school synthesizer experimentation to what these guys are doing…it comes off more ambient black metallish, despite being nothing more than synthesized keyboard drones and held tones – no vox, no guitars, no drums, just…well, ambient space music.

Fine for what it is, I guess…but this stuff always comes off a bit pointless, due to its lack of proper harmonic motion or any sense of drive.

BLUT AUS NORD – Deus Salutis Meae (Debemur Morti Productions) (October 27)

Droning, lumbering, experimental black/death out of France.

No johnny come latelies, these Frenchmen eschew the expected Watain Zombie Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards copycat bullshit by more or less predating that band and its influence, kicking around at least since 1995 and making something of a name for themselves along the way.

Moments feel a touch industrial, the lurching, trancey approach could be interpreted as an orientation towards doom…but no, this is black metal, and more specifically an especially quirky, boundary-pushing variant of black/death.

Oddly, despite the Gallic origins of the band and Latinate album name, several tracks herein come with Greek titling conventions. Don’t ask me, maybe it’s all part of the “let’s be all ooky-spooky” “occult black metal” thing so many bands in this genre seem to ape or aspire to these days. Whatever.

All I can tell you is that despite the band’s intrinsic weirdness factor, I was able to sit through this entire album without cringing much, if at all – while I can’t say I actually enjoyed it much, there’s enough of a doomy feel to pull it out of the expected toss into the Flaming PoDB.

Passable, definitely.

But rather bizarre.

THROANE – Plus Une Main A Mordre (Debemur Morti Productions) (October 20)

Okay, so the guy who does the art for Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega has his own, mostly one man band (he does have an outside drummer and producer, though).

It’s sort of a much darker than usual “post-black metal”, or a doomier, more expansive experimental black metal, marked with (and marred by) the usual atonality and droning thing.

The only thing that really stands out here is the production, which is pretty full and well done…how you take the music itself is pretty much on your own head.

For my part…yeah, the Pyre calls.

snap, crackle.  Pop.

A Pale December – The Shrine Of Primal Fire (Avantgarde Music) (November 7)

Italian black metal, of the more post- to vaguely “Cascadian” variant thereof.

Some good riffs to be found herein, some tracks feel rather pagan metal/festival-ready (“arboreal sanctuary” in particular), there’s a little progginess to melodeath to the leads (as in “midwinter ritual”) and bouncy pagan/Viking folkiness as well (“skygazer”), but the tremelo riffing and some dissonance, as well as some orientation towards blastbeatiness on the drum stool still points towards at least a post-black metal orientation.

Reasonably clean production and decent musicianship, particularly on the guitars of Riccardo “Korpsvart” DiBella, elevates ’em above where I might have rated these guys otherwise.

Not bad at all, particularly if your tastes lean more pagan to prog than either black or post-black metal per se.

Hornwood Fell – My Body, My Time (Avantgarde Music) (November 7)

Another Italian post-black metal act, this time with a much stronger emo-to-indie vibe.

Whiny, teenage-sounding clean vocals really drive that impression home, but the music veers between a black metallish drive, spacey clean guitar indie ambience and even corner of the mouth, lunkhead riffed nu metal leaning grunge (“dark cloak”, where the vocals go all Jonathan Davis by way of Layne Staley and the riffs go retro 90’s…and I don’t mean 90’s black metal).

It’s strange, and not half so winning as that of countrymen A Pale December – about the best you can say is that it’s an attempt at breaking new ground and is fairly well produced.

Nah, didn’t like this one bit.

TALV – Entering a Timeless Winter (A Sad Sadness Song) (November 3)

Another Italian band (hey, paisani! come sta?), this one leans more in the vague direction of Vardan than either of the Avantgarde acts covered this month.

That said, there’s no confusing Talv with Vardan – it’s actually a bit too overproduced for the sound they’re aiming for, with heavily delay and reverbed guitar drones, brushed cymbals and vocal snarls bleeding into each other uncomfortably, and resulting in a sound that’s overly dissonant where it should be mildly so.

It’s kind of hard to be melancholic and introspective when it feels like there’s too much going on, things are too noisy or overly abrasive…and while that hardly seems to be what Talv is shooting for here, that is what they wind up getting.

In the right general ballpark, to be sure.

Just needs some work and heavy tweaking on the execution end.

DEVLSY – Private Suite (ATMF) (November 3)

Lithuanian take on the same general idea, but with a lot less dissonance and droning and more actual drive and full band input.

Drums stand out the most here, so hats off to the producer or sound engineer for that – guitars are dissonant and open string like your all too typical PoDB castoff, but they frequently stop that bullshit after a minute or two and resolve into proper chordal and harmonic riffing, which saves them from the expected fate.

I guess if you take them as a sort of well produced, clean sounding doom band with black metal leanings, you may get a very vague picture of what to expect here.

Vocals aren’t exactly great and there’s way too much flirting with the Flaming Pyre for anyone’s tastes, but when they drop the bullshit and actually play as a band, they’re kind of powerful, well produced and even likeable.

Needs work? Definitely.

But enough good stuff in the mix to make me think they just need a firm handed producer to work on excising those shit elements from their songs and arrangements?

Yeah, most likely.

Parts of this were pretty damn good.

THE NEGATIVE BIAS – Lamentation of the Chaos Omega (ATMF) (December 1)

Modern black metal, somewhere between Norsecore and the much hated Swe-black/death Watain Wannabe “occult black metal” open string ringing tone dissonant PoDB shit that clutters the shelves to the point of collapse…but with a twist.

See, The Negative Bias drags in some very pagan/Viking style chants (war cries, perhaps?) and dramatic Gorgoroth-meets-Primordial riffs as punctuation between all the Tsjuder going “man to man” (cough) with Erik Danielsson nonsense…and that’s what actually stands out and saves this one.

Still way too close a shave, those flames are burning hairs off their arms and heads, they’re so damn near the Pyre.

But they’ve got something if not unique, then at least variant from template to recommend them, begging that last minute pardon from the governor before being consigned to the chair.

???? (Sleepwalker) – 5772 (AnnapurnA / Sentient Ruin) (November 13)

Underground black metal meets noise nonsense from a multinational trio (NYC, Osaka Japan and Tver, Russia)…that later changes approach and goes all over the place.

The closest this comes to working in any respect is on the quieter, clean multiguitar sections of tracks like “plain wood” and “no flowers”…those were fine for what they were.

The rest…bleh.

Drop any pretense towards black metal (which you really can’t hack, to judge by this) and take that other stuff up, you’d probably be a decent psychedelic/indie/prog trio.

 

SARTEGOS / BALMOG – Split 7″ (Caverna Abismal) (December 11)

Spanish black metal gets itself a split.

Sartegos is underground black/death, with wet sounding gargle death vocals buried at or below the thin sounding, almost jangly midrange distortion guitars and inept POUND POUND POUND DD Crazy-style drums. Not the worst for its type.

Balmog is more typical black/death nonsense. Not quite Watain Wannabe, as they seem to have other influences playing in (think more Behemoth), but still consigned to the flames.

WHOOSH!

Watch that disc melt. Gotta love green flames.

Sacrilegious Rite – Summoned From Beyond (Dunkelheit Produktionen) (November 13)

Generic, generic, generic.

I don’t know, maybe I just hear so much black metal – and in particular, modern black metal to be impressed by stuff like this…but there’s really nothing to recommend here, unless you’re pretty hardcore into the black metal or black/death “underground” variants thereof.

I got through the better part of the album wondering when the track was going to change, or if this was all one very long, ho-hum half hour long “song”…

Yeah, whatever.

Next?

Kapala (India) – Infest Cesspool (Dunkelheit Produktionen) (November 27)

War metal, this time out of India.

As you’d expect from a band so pointedly aping the likes of Conqueror and Revenge (just check that album cover and logo), it’s noisy, lo-fi, uber-simplistic and muddy – not in terms of the perfectly awful production (so hissy and signal bleed prone as to sound like it was recorded by a teenager off his iPod at a punk show held in a local church basement or in the rehearsal room), but in terms of the guitar, drums and vox bleeding together in one big lump of mess.

Now, I don’t mind a few bands in this genre – Beherit in particular, but Blasphemy, even Revenge/Conqueror/Death Worship and Black Witchery can work when I’m in the mood…but on the whole, it just seems, like grindcore, to be one big excuse to be inept on your instruments and bash away noisily sans production, skills or even a day worth of music study. Kids given their first guitar and drum set, basically. “Yeah! We’re awesome!”

And while I’m sure a whole lot of rage and the endemic poverty that likely gives rise to same are playing into this one given its place of origin, that semi-hypothetical scenario definitely seems to fit Kapala like a glove.

Nothing wrong with it given the extreme limitations and rather low bar set by their chosen genre…but for diehard war metallers only.

Thy Serpent’s Cult – Supremacy of Chaos (Ordo MCM) (October 23)

Chilean black metal with a blackened death (as opposed to the more typical Swedish-copycatting “black/death” that keeps the Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards so well fed every month) vibe.

You can pick out plenty of lo-fi, extremely poorly produced Autopsy meets Incantation style death metal riffs…but at least they are recognizably death metal, through and through. There’s even a few off-key solos.

Drums often gravitate towards Donald Tardy-like double bass footwork, though sadly, there’s plenty of simplistic blastbeat bullshit on hand as well. Vox are deep, belchy and unintelligible.

This is apparently the band’s final album, after about 10 years and two prior releases, so I guess they went out on a good note – while nothing to write home about, this one was a lot better (i.e. more properly death metal crossed with a blackthrash vibe and approach) than I was expecting (i.e. a sloppier take on the fatally overdone Watain Wannabe black/death cum “occult black metal” schtick)…

…and yeah, there are definitely some good riffs and footwork to be found in the middle of all that mess otherwise.

DSKNT – PhSPHR Entropy (Clavis Secretorvm) (December 4)

You know, from the cutesy name, I was figuring this’d be some Van Canto-style, perhaps medieval-style Ren Faire vocal group, working “DeS(C)aNT”. You know, like Vintersorg harmonizing with himself, performing different vocal lines simultaneously, staggered and possibly repeating rondo-style. Nice stuff, would work really well in a metal context.

Instead…it’s just awful atonal black metal, all dissonance and ringing open chords over blastbeats and belch vox, alternating with noisy sub-Beherit electronic experiments (which are still a major improvement over the actual band stuff).

Oh, if there was ever one for the Pile…that Flaming Pyre is about to really surge, back up for your own safety.

WHOOOSSHH!!!!!

Damn, that singed the leaves off nearby trees…

Next?

Unreqvited – Disquiet (Cold) (November 6)

umm…wow, that was a huge shift, coming after DSKNT…

Lycia in their most vocal-free, expansive and darkly mellow moments, possibly with a touch of earlier Black Tape for a Blue Girl. It’s definitely quite Projekt Records, regardless.

It’s only with penultimate track “maydena” that anything more than lush, laid back keyboards kick in, with a nigh-black metal (but still instrumental) band fading in and out between the expected keyboardisms.

Closer “death” holds out on some of the residual energy, sounding rather gothic/symphonic and bearing a bit of a motion charge – you could equally say “Epicaesque”, “Rhapsody (of Fire)like” or “80’s horror movie soundtrack style”. And near the end, the band even comes back for a minute or two.

Seemed fairly aimless, if listenable as background music, until the last two tracks…both which were surprisingly quite good!

A full album like the last two tracks, this would have been a glowing review throughout.

As it stands, not bad, and definitely has its moments.

Apologoethia – Pillars (Invictus Productions) (November 24)

Spanish black/death affair. Good production.

The throaty grunting to roar back to snot-gargling vox will remind the listener of Rotting Christ, but their general approach is more Behemothlike and kind of boring.

Unless you’re really into that sort of snooze.

I mean thing.  Sorry, Freudian slip there.

Malokarpatan – Nordkarpatenland (Invictus Productions / The Ajna Offensive) (October 31)

We reviewed (and more or less loved) their Stridzie Dni and here we have the followup, more Masters Hammer meets Tormentor-style Eastern European first wave black metal goodness, with all the oddities and quirks that implies.

You can tell just how close this runs to Masters Hammer from the crazy-ass, uber-lengthy song titles:

“In the provincial pond, a water goblin has been raging for centuries”, “When old Bartolín was driven back home from the tavern on a wheelbarrow”, “When a bugger kobold settles down in the farmer’s household”, and my personal favorite, “Devils are playing whist at nights in the old water mill”.

Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about…and a vague Barbey D’Aurevilly reference to boot. “A Game of Whist” is one of the better tales comprising Les Diaboliques

Yeah, nothing’s changed. Malokarpatan, regardless of their unwieldy moniker, is still one of the best black metal acts of modern vintage.

Raise high the horns, while an old witch squats hideously on a stinking wanker of a frog deep in the marsh rushes as a decrepit stooped farmer pushes his cart of strawberries past.

Coscradh – Of Death and Delirium (Invictus Productions) (November 24)

We covered these Irishmen’s self titled debut last summer, and a few instrumental portions aside, found it yet another black/death affair of questionable worth.

A year and a new album, and has anything really shifted? Have they improved, have they tweaked the formula to create something of greater value?

umm…well, no.

Three tracks of the “vocalist” making groaning and gargling sounds, tongue extended, tonsils waggling as if he were being strangled by the listener (which may well be the case, depending on just how pissed off bad music makes you!), slathered in slap echo and reverb, as grinding guitar and double bass to blastbeat drumming pound away relentlessly and atonally.

Did he grab ol’ Vardan’s noose from the promo photos for personal misuse? Is the guy turning purple during the recording session? Quick, dial 999!

Next?

Tetragrammacide – Primal Incinerators of Moral Matrix CD/LP/TAPE (Iron Bonehead) (November 3)

We essayed their Typhonian Wormholes: Indecipherable Anti-Structural Formulæ, and this is still more of the same – a wall of pointless noise, buzz and signal bleed from start to finish.

Does anyone listen to stuff like this voluntarily? As in for personal pleasure, enjoyment, relaxation, something to blast on highway drives, that sort of thing?

WHIZZZZZ!

(spit) (crackle)

Step back, folks, the Pyre is getting a whole hell of a lot of fodder fuel this month…don’t think I’ve seen flames this big in quite some time…

NEXT?!?

Kawir – Exilasmos CD/LP/TAPE (Iron Bonehead) (November 3)

We covered (and liked) their Father Sun Mother Moon, and chatted with Mirai (and “Dr. Mikkanibal”) of Sigh about their split with the unorthodox Japanese black metallers back in the day, but that’s pretty much the extent of our exposure to these Greek BM veterans.

Exilasmos once again finds the band tackling their homeland’s rich mythology, with tracks dedicated to Oedipus, Tantalus, Agamemnon and Orestes, among others. Hell, there’s more operas referenced thereby than you can shake a stick at…

This time around, I’m not feeling it so much, though. It’s still better production than usual, with moments of (relative) open space and quirky early Rotting Christlike riffing coming into play at fairly regular intervals…but the vox sound more strident and shrieky, the band more aggressive, like someone lit the studio on fire and they were desperate to get this shit on tape before the place burned down.

Some may see that as a selling point, sure.

But while not a million miles remove from their last album, I think it’s a bit of a step down.

Ieschure – The Shadow CD/LP (Iron Bonehead) (December 1)

Hmm. Sometimes I see those promo photos (and yes, there are more than we used herein) and think, damn, she’s kinda goth chick hot. Other times, I see her and think, yeah, but she looks a bit nuts

Anyway, what you get here are some pleasantly whispered to sprechtgesang female vocals over multitracked keyboards (which almost sound lush at points therefore) and muted guitar and drums, vaguely in the black metal spectrum (though in more of a quirkier, more syncretist first wave sense thereof – quieter moments like the “outro” actually come off more gothic darkwave than not.)

Then she gets all shrieky, and I don’t even mean Myrkur-shrieky…this is thin toned, strident and very piercing.

I guess if you think Gehenna circa First Spell is the sine qua non of black metal, then you should find quite a bit to like here – there’s a very similar vibe overall, and Lilita Arndt’s clean spoken, whispered and sung vocals are quite pleasant.

But like the dichotomy presented by the promo photos, she’s the proverbial little girl with a curl. I could really have done without the piercing, overly strident shrieks…and a much better production is very much called for here.

Mixed bag, but playing very much in the right ballpark. A little tweak here, a little tweak there…and yeah.

Definitely worth checking out, and looking forward to see what she does with the next one.

BLACK DEATH (Cleveland) – S/T (CD, LP, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (November 17)

You know, I was thinking this was the same band as Death, another all-black act out of the Midwest who leaned more punk (or proto-punk, coming at the earlier end of the 70’s).

But no, this is a very different band, albeit one not a million miles removed therefrom (also coming together in the 70’s, albeit the latter half, also an all-black act, from Cleveland instead of Detroit). And you know what? That’s a very good thing, because Black Death is by far a better metal band than Death ever was a punk one.

Treading that borderline between early to mid-80s heavy metal proper and what became classified as US power metal, this is well produced (particularly on the vocals), thick toned, NWOBHM-derivation American metal, as Lizzy Borden would celebrate in song shortly hereafter.

Promo writeup sagely offers Judas Priest circa Sad Wings crossed with Cirith Ungol by way of Thin Lizzy…and yeah, you can pick up all of that herein. There’s even a decidedly manly power ballad “when tears run red” that practically out-Jag Panzers Jag Panzer in chest thumping, Manowar-level “manly metal”…especially for a power ballad!

This is exactly the sort of obscure to forgotten third tier 80’s metal band that I’ve been digging into of late, and part and parcel of my newfound love of all things power metal (though more particularly of the US variant thereof).

You thought Detroit’s Halloween and Rage circa Thundersteel were killer, love all those New Renaissance power/thrash acts and never stopped spinning Cirith Ungol, Heavy Load and Brocas Helm?

Then brother, you are going to fucking love Black Death.

Best album this month, easy. And I understand they’re talking comeback album…

Raise the metal fist in salute!

VAULTWRAITH – Death is Proof of Satan’s Power (CD, LP) (Hells Headbangers) (October 31)

The late Jim Sadist of Nunslaughter seems to have been involved in early stages of this act, who claim to have some interest in classic Eurohorror as much as their more obvious fascination with traditionalist metal to first wave-style black metal.

Lead lines feel a tad Mercyful Fate inspired, riffs more power/thrash but the vox swing things off way far to the left, all nasty gargle-growls somewhere in the black/death spectrum.

Tag in some Mirai-era Necrophagia-style keyboard backing and fills, leave a Nunslaughter to Killjoy vocal skewing everything in a weird direction and add occasional blastbeats and Cradle of Filth-style tremelo riffed guitars and you get…

…well, kind of a mess, really, but I was going to say “Vaultwraith”.

I liked the traditional metal bits, mostly down to guitar leads and lead lines, didn’t mind the galloping NWOBHM to Euro power metal riffing and thought the vocals were…honestly, a bit ridiculous. Never heard a whisper of Eurohorror being referenced…I guess you’ll just have to head over to Weird Scenes for your fix on that front.

Anyway, overall, this isn’t bad for what it is – you know we’re always down with the trad, whatever subgenre or style bucket it falls under.

But the vox really don’t fit this at all, and it’d be nice if they trimmed things back to more of a trad/power/NWOBHM vibe, period.

PROFANATICA – The Enemy of Virtue (2CD, 2LP) (Hells Headbangers) (November 3)

Compilation of early Revenant and Incantation member Paul Ledney’s demos, singles and splits, more or less covering the 1990-1992 and 2000-2001 periods of the band.

As you can imagine, sound quality varies wildly throughout, with the Putrescence Of demo sounding a thousand times better than the utter dogshit recording that is the Broken Throne of Christ demo or the still rather muddy and uber lo-fi Weeping in Heaven single.

Things improve slightly for the Tormenting Holy Flesh split, though these tracks, while louder and more clear than the two releases preceding, crackle and spit like frying bacon throughout. A similar, if slightly clearer fate befalls some unreleased 1992 studio sessions, a subsequent rehearsal is nigh unlistenable.

One track “only released in mp3 form” falls in more or less the same range as Tormenting and the unreleased sessions, an EP sounds closer to normal (but still not as “good” as the original 1990 demo!), and a few live tracks are back down into unlistenable rehearsal quality.

Ledneys drumming “skills” have always been questionable at best (think slow POUND POUND POUND DD Crazy-style blastbeats…but at a very laid back, Kiss-level speed, and without any footwork or tom rolls to punctuate the utter juvenalia thereof) and Profanatica has never actually elevated themselves above bottom tier US black metal – they may have been one of the first, but they’re certainly one of the worst – so there’s not a lot more to be said here.

They’ve been around for ages, and Incantation, at least in its early Rahmer/Pillard era, deserves some respect…so this one won’t get tossed into the Pyre.

But that’s hardly a compliment.

Next?

CHILDREN OF TECHNOLOGY – Apocalyptic Compendium – 10 Years in Chaos, Noise and Warfare (CD, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (December 8)

We’d covered their Future Decay a few years back and always liked their Mayhemic Speed Anarchy single/EP (contained herein), so we’re already starting off on a good foot here. Did I mention they’re Italian? Yeah, we’re good.

Anyway, what you get here is a fairly comprehensive collection of what they’ve been doing for the better part of their career: namely, splits, singles and EPs, emphasis on the “splits”.

Working in (mostly) reverse chronological order, you get a bonus track released on certain versions of 2014’s Future Decay, the aforementioned Mayhemic Speed Anarchy from 2012 (just a month or so before we started doing these monthly print reviews, in fact), their split with Tiger Junkies and Bludwulf, the Chaosmutant Hordes single/EP, the SpeedPunkMetalCrust split, the split with GATES, the “give me gasoline or give me death” single, the Day After demo (two of whose tracks wound up on the Road Warriors split) and closing out on the split with Bastardator. All that’s missing are the two full lengths – quite a comprehensive package, all in all.

For those who’ve not yet encountered Children of Technology, futuristic cyberpunk/Carnivorelike postapocalyptic image aside, expect a mixed gender punk/thrash/crust act that comes off somewhere between Joel Grind, Motorhead and self titled-era Bathory (by which you can also tag in Venom). It’s basic, straight to the point, raw, grinding, biker bandish and right up my alley.

Hey, I always loved what little I encountered from these guys over the years, particularly the older, rawer and more pissed off material. Pretty much all of which is contained right here.

So? What the fuck are you waiting for?

Get off your ass and grab some fuel, before other raiders come take it all on ya, you scab!

Profound hails to the nuclear warriors.

Wrathprayer / Force of Darkness Wrath of Darkness – split LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (November 15)

geez, from something as good as Children of Technology to this shit again?

Yeah, it’s more underground black/death, this time of Chilean origin. The production sucks, there’s a criminal overuse of reverb, so much signal bleed it’ll probably show as one red blob tracking on your equipment, and kinda pointless.

Wrathprayer is the more annoying of the two, with some bottom of the bowels death metal vox, slow blastbeats and grinding dissonant black/death riffing. Vox wouldn’t be too bad, were you able to hear them over the rest of the din and out from behind the wall of reverb. Overall, one big yawn.

Force of Darkness feels a bit more retro inspired, with simplistic but very thrash style riffing at points and Nasty Ronnielike vocals. Too bad it’s appended to terrible, crackling production and lousy blastbeat drumming, and that most of their tracks sound exactly alike (“the order” breaks the mold, coming off a tad FMJ-era Marduk – and hence becomes their best song on the split).

Not utter garbage – Force of Darkness has some promise buried in there, and nothing wrong with the vocalist (only) on Wrathprayer, aside from what they pulled on him in studio…but I can’t exactly recommend this one either.

Goatpenis – Anesthetic Vapor LP/CD (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (October 15)

Oddly long running war (or “bestial black”, if you prefer) metal act out of Brazil. Not that you’d really know it from Anesthetic Vapor.

Well…maybe. Let’s revise that slightly – there’s a level of confidence to their decidedly minimalist playing, and for war (or “bestial”) metal, this is considered really good production. I mean, you actually get some negative space, and can hear stuff. And there may be actual (very detuned) riffs. Hell, there’s even some double bass footwork, cymbal play and a tom roll or two on rare occasions.

In fact, if more tracks came off as well as “krieg und frieden”, this may have been a very different review. Unfortunately, most of the album sticks to high speed mud riffing, POUND POUND POUND slow to more regularly speedy blastbeat drumming and the doofier end of black metal tremelo riffing. Sometimes they make it sound a bit sinister at least (“carnivorous ability”), but again, more the exception than the rule.

Trust me, you’ve heard much, much worse from this rather limited subgenre than Anesthetic Vapor. So if you’re inclined to give this one a go, have at it, I’m not stopping ya.

Everyone else, come on, let’s keep moving. Better things await.

Infernal Blast – Wolves Elitism Speech (War Arts Productions) (November 17)

Infernal Blast? As in “who farted?”

Didn’t we already have some band this month whose promo photo was the guy looking triumphant as he beefed a nasty cloud of green death on a suffering audience? Geez, what’s with all the bad farts this month? And yeah, all things considered, you can take that metaphorically as well as literally…some definite stinkers covered this month, that’s for sure!

Case in point, yet another war metallish affair, this time with Atari Teenage Riot drum programming. Damn, could you annoy listeners any more? 

It’s from France, it’s under 20 minutes long, but it’ll feel like a full decade by the time you get through the last track.

Advil, anyone?

NEXT?!?

Malleus (U.S.) – Storm of Witchcraft CD/LP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (October 27)

Riffwise, tonally on the guitars, tempowise, this is early Celtic Frost, maybe Hellhammer worship.

Then when the vox kick in, it gets pretty early Bathory instead (or as well, depending how you look at it)…all of which was called out by the promo materials as well, so hats off, that’s the second or third time this month y’all have been dead on with the points of reference.

Look, I even like the Frost clones like Warhammer, so you know I’m good there…and self titled Bathory? Have you read our review on Joel Grind’s Yellowgoat Sessions a few years back?

Yeah, no new ground being broken here…but good stuff nonetheless.

Serpentrance – The Besieged Sanctum CD/LP (Blood Harvest) (November 10)

Russian, underground, black/death. Not just awash, but positively dripping wet in reverb and lousy production, guitars grind thinly on the ear, drums sound tinny, some guy keeps belching into the slap echo.

yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this five billion fucking times before. I’m so impressed, I’m sure.

NEXT?!?

 

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