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Ah, at last the icy hand of Winter begins to loose its grim grip!  Spring has sprung and you almost feel like departing the cavern, squinting at an unfamiliar light…

With our Belated Black Metal Based Addendum, we’ve finally dug our way to daylight, and of the few indie sources still waiting for coverage, one more is brought up to snuff herein, with a respectable start on two more.

And that’s in addition to the usual monthly onslaught of reviewables, mind…this was simply backlog generated around the holidaze and all that nonsense at the turn of the year (thanks so much, overrated yet strangely subpar podcast service and host, you overcharging AOL of online radio shows…and good riddance!)

Not 100% yet, but getting damn close, and still have three out of four recordings already in the can awaiting editing and upload (hello, Weird Scenes fans!) to boot.  So yeah, we’re just about out of the woods at last.

Welcome, warmer weather.  May you bring better things and a more hopeful future…because these last few years have been wayyyy too fucking dark for all of us.

Enough catchup.  Let’s get with the program, shall we?

Allons-y!

L.A. GUNS – The Devil You Know (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 29)

Second effort after their big comeback a few years back, and Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns have upped their game, to the point where they’re almost batting a thousand.

We covered The Missing Peace back at the end of 2017, and while a few songs showed some definite sparks of former glories, much of it felt overly…poppy? Certainly more akin to the Cocked & Loaded/Hollywood Vampires period than the undeniable sleaze and grit of the debut.

This time around, while they still haven’t managed to recapture whatever dark magic brought about that storied debut…it’s a much stronger album, and more insertable stylistically between said debut and Cocked & Loaded in many respects.

I mean, check out that solo on “needle to the bone”, or Phil’s patented raspy-whine vocals on same…and damn, if you can’t hear hints of tracks like “bitch is back”.

Sure, it’s still inconsistent. Two ballads and two upbeat major key tracks in a row (the latter with a decided country feel, yet!)* don’t exactly do the band any favours.

* (from “going high” through “down that hole”)

But then you have “rage”, which is like “electric gypsy” on steroids (if not crossed with “no mercy”!), “boom”, which is quite Fastway stylistically, “stay away”, “loaded bomb” and the aforementioned “needle to the bone”…

…at the very least, you have half an album that totally crushes the competition (i.e. other bands of this vintage attempting to recapture vintage glories), if not, as aforementioned, fits in easily as a de facto “second album” before the band started softening its approach.

Yeah, it’s not perfect, nor is it the debut, redux.

But the fact that half of it came close?

Damn, son!

The bitch is indeed back!

TNT – Encore Live in Milano (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 22)

whoa, what? Tony Harnell, Ronni Le Tekro and Diesel Dahl back in the same room, dropping a concert worth of TNT classics?

Who’d’a thunk it?

OK, so it was in fact short lived, and this is coverage of an Italian show dropped during that all too brief moment…but hey, if you’ve been in a band, you know how things can get. Be glad we have stuff like this preserved, right?

Well, as noted in recent coverage of Tony’s other band Starbreaker, while Harnell could hardly be expected to have that same helium squeal he did back in the mid to late 80’s…he’s actually aged pretty well in that respect, and can pull it off so much better than far too many of his hard living peers. You’ll know it’s him, that’s for damn sure.

There’s also a decided focus on classic TNT on display here, with tracks from Knights of the New Thunder, Tell No Tales and Intuition all present and accounted for, with not a hell of a lot past that (surprisingly, not even so far as Realized Fantasies, which had at least 4 strong tracks to its credit).

The only letdown here is that Le Tekro is hardly working his “patented 4-stepper guitar” high speed Vinnie Vincent/Nitro style solos here, leaning more on standard tempo pentatonic scale business and letting Harnell and the crowd fill in for the missing solo sections of each song. He’s still taking some leads, but it’s not the sort you remember and revisit so fondly.

Even so…not a bad show as these things go. If you’re a real TNT diehard, you may well want to indulge.

THE END MACHINE (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 22)

You know, this sounds a hell of a lot like Lynch Mob…

…oh, that’s why. It’s George and Mick from Lynch Mob with former Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson and the guy who’s covering for the late Jani Lane with Warrant these days.

Look, I had the same reaction to Lynch Mob after being a huge Dokken fan as I did to Mr. Big after being a huge Racer X and David Lee Roth/Talas fan: namely, what the hell?

“Wicked sensation” (the song) aside (or in Mr. Big’s case, “addicted to that rush” aside), these were some very, very different bands, with a very different sound and focus than the ones that preceded them…and neither was to my taste, those two songs aside.

So if anyone’s expecting a Dokken reunion…forget it. But as an alternate take on Lynch Mob? Yeah, this is pretty solid by those admittedly diminished standards.

BURNING RAIN – Face The Music (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 29)(Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 22)

Cross vintage Ratt, Lynch Mob and XYZ, and you’ve got this album’s opener, “revolution”. Damn good stuff, right?

Well, there’s one further saving grace, near the end of the album: “if it’s love”, which comes off somewhat akin to Sykes-era Whitesnake.  And hey, if you’re just into good guitar work, you also have the sorta Stones-like “hideaway” (think “miss you” or something off of Black and Blue) and the Roxy Blue-ish “since I’m loving you”). So there’s all of that, right?

So…what’s the deal with the other 7 tracks, huh?

What’s more surprising…well, not from the four good tracks noted above, but based on the rest of this…is that it comes with two notable veterans in tow, Lion’s Doug Aldrich and Slaughter’s Blas Elias. And hey, as noted, Aldrich really smokes on some of those leads.

But you have to wonder…we already have the evidence you guys can and have done better…and further, that by the skills shown right here, you still have it in ya.

So like the ersatz Dokken of The End Machine, you have to assume it’s a deliberate choice to stifle the skillset and traverse a more subdued, even workaday direction…for the most part.

At least, as noted numerous times hereinabove, a few of these tracks are pretty damn decent.

Let’s try for a full album’s worth next go-around, though, eh?

THE TREATMENT – Power Crazy (Frontiers Music s.r.l.) (March 22)

We’d really appreciated this UK take on classic Bon Scott-era AC/DC (but with their own original take and feel, rather than the expected slavish tribute band thing we see far too often these days) with their Generation Me a few years back, and this followup easily equals if not improves on the former by leaps and bounds.

There’s one track that further evokes both ZZ Top and Moody/Mardsen era Whitesnake (“on the money”), but this is almost exclusively vintage AC/DC, as transplanted to a more modern era and the bar band circuit.

If anything, beyond an even more high energy approach throughout the entirety of the album, this one pulls in a few tracks that feel akin to early Brian Johnson era as well…but still with the higher energy the band was known for and prone to back in the Bon days (hence the band name, get it?).

Any way you slice it, if these guys don’t get you shaking your head, cranking the stereo and stepping on the gas, there’s just no hope for ya.

Damn good stuff, keep ’em coming, mates!

Leathürbitch – Into The Night (High Roller Records) (May 31)

You know, I can’t get over the drummer’s name, here.  

Meschach Babcock’s the guy’s moniker…and I keep wondering where Shadrack and Abed-Nego are, and just what went down in that damn furnace…

You know, someone should actually go up to the guy and ask him, if only for the laugh value. Odds on one seriously clueless look in return…

Anyway, these guys are sort of a mellow glam (think somewhere between Joey Tempest and Kip Winger on vocals) crossed with a sort of Concrete Jungle meets Metal Massacre act bandwise. It’s very old school trad metal bordering on vintage US power metal, but with self consciously sleazy lyrics (on at least half the tracks) and those light, back of the throat vox.

The end result is fairly solid, particularly evident when they deliver a top notch cover of Ratt (“I’m insane”).

It may not be what passed for top tier Sunset Strip material back in the day – it’s too dark, too aggressively USPM for that crowd.

But I was definitely good with this one, yeah.

HAUNT – If Icarus Could Fly (CD, LP, TAPE) (Shadow Kingdom) (May 17)

Second full length from this former Beastmaker mainman and company. We’d covered their excellent Luminous Eyes and the iffier Burst into Flame,

whose production was somewhat lesser and which felt a bit tired by comparison. And thankfully, it’s safe to report that this one (and the EP, also covered herein) offers more of a welcome return to form.

Solid, moving solos, driving riffs, a very 70’s feel over a US power metal-style NWOBHM derived base…it’s all quite organic and powerful, fluid where NWOBHM is stiff, melodic where USPM tends to be overly dark and angry (not to mention where it occasionally borders thrash!), busy and awake where 70’s rock forms and retro variants thereof tend to be dry and sleepy (okay, fucking stoned…)

Yeah, this is the shit.

Now on to the EP…

HAUNT – Mosaic Vision (CD, 12″ MLP, TAPE) (Shadow Kingdom) (March 22)

Yeah, more of the same. It’s not quite as strong as Luminous Eyes, but still feels more vibrant in its four tracks than Burst into Flame did at full album length…and mind, were we not comparing to Church’s efforts on Haunt and Beastmaker’s other works, that one hardly qualifies as a stinker, either!

The production’s a bit more muffled and dry here, but that’s acceptable on an EP or 7″, which tend to be dashed off quickly as extra content for the fans or to capture a new song vibrant and fresh out of the oven, before it becomes stale from overplaying in concert settings or is left to fester and be over thought and fiddled into blah-ness.

You don’t exactly expect a label to pump big bucks into an EP…yet strangely, they often come off as far more essential than the full lengths (both Garage Days, Eyes of Horror, the “behind the mirror” 7″ with the excellent Tygers of Pan Tang cover on the flipside, Benediction’s Dark is the Season…you name it.  Luminous Eyes, case in point…

And while it’d be a bit of a stretch to claim Mosaic Vision were any better than the excellent full length from Haunt covered this very month…it’s certainly right on par, and shows just how solid the man’s body of work has been and remains to date.

BEWITCHER – Under the Witching Cross (CD, LP, TAPE) (Shadow Kingdom) (May 10)

It was only a few months ago when we covered these Oregonians’ Too Fast for the Flamesand already they’re back with another full length of blackthrash-style takes on the patented USBM biker band template: all Venom, Motorhead and first album Bathory tied up in a neat bow.

Promo materials mention Exciter, and if you’re talking Heavy Metal Maniac era, then sure, you can definitely hear them playing into the Bewitcher sound a lot more than they ever would with bands like Intoxicated or Maax, much less the likes of Midnight or Nunslaughter.

The riffing and general sound is actually pretty winning…it all boils down to your tolerance for the shitty (unless you’re thinking USBM) vox, all overemotive snarls and gargling to put forbears like Cronos and Quorthon to shame…hell, they’re positively operatic by comparison.

Frontman aside, this is damn good stuff.

SINS OF THE DAMNED – Striking the Bell of Death (CD, LP, TAPE) (Shadow Kingdom) (May 3)

Chilean blackthrash…but like Bewitcher, with more of a vintage “speed metal” orientation than usual for the type.

This time, the vox are more of a cross between Mille Petrozza and Jurgen “Ventor” Reil, leaning more heavily toward the latter…which combined with the Exciter meets Kreator by way of Rage, Warrant or Deathrow “speed”/Teutonic thrash sound they’re working leaves them far more palatable to a non-black metal spectrum audience than, say, Desaster or Deathhammer, much less Chile’s own Pentagram.

Many are the bands attempting to recapture the vintage 80’s sound, but only a few manage to feel somewhat genuine to a veteran thereof.  These guys are one of those storied assemblage of the few, the proud, the…er…historian’s delight, I guess.

Bottom line, this works pretty damn well, and wouldn’t prove incredibly jarring played after Endless Pain or Heavy Metal Maniac, much less Reign of Fear or The Enforcer.

  

PROPHETS OF ADDICTION – Nothing but the Truth (HiVolMusic) (April 4)

“Unplugged” affair where a raspy vocalled hard drinkin’ GNR type (think somewhere between Junkyard and The Sleez Beez here) and his guitarist sit there and strum out arpeggiated chords on the acoustic, while singing about drinkin’ the day away and life on the mean streets of L.A.

Frontman Lesli Sanders has a seriously quirky voice that almost sounds like he’s taking the piss out of the listener, though he may well just be that ragged out from hard living, who knows. Shit happens in life. Otherwise, think GNR Lies minus the killer solos and pointedly catchy melodies, and you’re on the right track.

Apparently this was supposed to be a full on electric rock band thing, but their drummer appears to have been stricken by all sorts of horrible medical issues…who knows what the story is behind that, but it don’t sound good.

So in the meantime and in between time…you get this acoustic throwback to the days of street junkie glam ala GNR, L.A. Guns and their Screwed, Blued and Tattooed ilk.

If you know what you’re in for (especially with those vocals!)…this really ain’t half bad.

Red Moon Architect – Kuura (The Vinyl Division (physical),  Grey Beton Records (digital) (April 5)

Yet another Winter wannabe funereal doom act, all glacial pace and detuned, ringing chords with occasional black metal snarls.

It’s perfectly acceptable, but something about their two lengthy tracks with a pointless filler between comes off a tad less appealing than usual for the type…at least after spending quite a bit of time listening to this brand of sludgy funeral-leaning doom metal of late.

If you dig the style, there’s certainly little to grouse about herein.

FINAL COIL – THE WORLD WE LEFT BEHIND FOR OTHERS (WORMHOLEDEATH) (APRIL 12)

We’d covered this UK act’s Persistence of Memory a few years back, and found it a tad more…”upbeat” certainly isn’t the word, but more grungelike than doomy, for a band that in so many ways seemed to evoke Patrick Walker and Warning otherwise.

Mainman Phil Stiles was kind enough to contact us afterwards to thank us for our thoughts, and we’d had a pleasant discussion thereon…and thus it is that the man came to us once again with his new opus magna in tow, to see our take on the latest and greatest.

So here we are, and the grunge thing remains the most prominent element in their musical…er…Toolbox (cough).

The most interesting track may in fact be that which the album was named after, which at the midpoint comes off very much akin to Tool crossed with Alice in Chains, arguably with a bit of Soundgarden to the riffing as well…but there’s plenty of very obvious psychedelic doom to be found in the very same track (i.e. both the first and final few minutes thereof). It’s probably the closest to a Warning parallel as you’ll get this time around.

Otherwise, it’s a bit scattershot, or dynamic, depending on whether you’re a glass half full type or not. Things get a bit weird on a few ambient tracks, “ash’s” and “one more drink”, each of which bring in electronic/industrial elements (a very obvious drum machine and tinkling pipe percussion) and in the latter case, an almost Chris Isaak/Mazzy Star style slide guitar with heavy reverb/chorus and delay.

This latter element also informs both “take me for a walk” and penultimate track “imaginary trip”, while others lean more indie rock (“convicted of the right”) or once again return to the grunge (“scattered dust”, “empty handed”, “keeping going”, “…and I’ll leave”), before bringing in some of the doom element again (“ashes ashes”). Still others cross the borders of both indie and grunge (“the last battle”).

It’s all very listenable, particularly if you’re down with the 90’s grunge thing…but given some of the ‘outside’ elements and sourcing being tapped and reworked herein, they hardly merit an exclusive pigeonhole as “grunge revivalists”.

Depressive, sure. Introspective, a bit prone to staring at the shoes (though not “shoegaze” in any real respect)? Yeah, definitely. But while it’s more grungelike than doomy, you still have all that electronic business to contend with, much less the trippy desert oasis vibe of the Isaak/Mazzy Star sound that plays into other tracks herein.

And further? It’s worth looking into the lyrics and intent behind the album (hint, there’s business relating to Brexit and the rise of certain untoward attitudes and demagogues of late…nuff said. But do investigate.)

Bottom line, as odd as some of this may sound on paper, it works…and that’s all that really matters in the end.

Keep on fighting the good fight, in an increasingly ugly world.

BROCARDE – “Last Supper” (April 15)

Damn, so much for the “English rose”, eh?

Here’s a lass from rural Oxfordshire, who really belts out the aggro…and while there are moments of screamo to be found herein, that’s not even what we’re talking about here.

It’s mostly clean vox…but the sheer venom with which the uni-monikered femme spits out such lyrics as “what will you excrete after your last supper? Obsession with celebrity, the need for conformity?” over stuttering nu metal riffs and symphonic keyboards is sure to leave the listener backing up a few paces with raised eyebrows.

Whoa, what? Umm…sure, lady…just calm down, OK?

Well…look, it’s one track, and a radio edit at that. But geez…take a chill pill, huh?

Absinthropy and Salix Babylonica – split (Clobber Records) (April 12)

Salix Babylonica is an Ecuadorian black metal act that favors long stretches more typical of doom between the expected tremelo riffing and blastbeats.

The vox are really strange, and mixed (and covered in echo) in such a way that they overpower everything else in the mix. Think the voice of the Central Scrutinizer on Joe’s Garage, just all raspy and belchy, and you get the idea. It makes them a lot harder to listen to than they would be otherwise.

Absinthropy is, as you might expect, yet another black metal act trying to pass themselves off as (more or less) doom or as utilizing elements of same, though far less pointedly or effectively than their South American splitmates.

The vox are more nasty and snot gargling (think Hat or Pest from Gorgoroth after gargling chocolate milk here) and the music is more black metal than anything else…there’s barely any doom (or any other genre) to speak of.

Bottom line, didn’t care for either…but weird vocal mix aside, Ecuador decidedly takes the GOOOOOOOOOOAL here.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. You know the UK and South America are both huge on their football.*

* ‘soccer’ to you Yanks and non-Anglophiles out there…

She Made Me Do It – Drenched (February 1)

Holy crap, this guy must be a touring fill in guitarist…supposedly, he’s played with Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow, Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde and The Selecter…how’s that for a credits list?

So anyway, this obviously seasoned six stringer hooked up with a female vocalist/bass player and dropped an odd little four track EP.

One airy, light pop track (“time”) is appended by two fairly raw, grunge meets indie ones that come off more Hives/Vines/White Stripes as crossed with Foo Fighters and suchlike 90’s acts (“ashes”, “bones”) and one that feels like The Donnas crossed with Paramore, with moments of Sugar for good measure (“broken morning”).

It’s kind of scattershot stylistically, but you can certainly argue all of those touchpoints occupy the same basic spectrum on the musical landscape…it’s listenable enough, if a bit lighter than expected.

“Broken morning” is the best track to check out here, no question.

Dead Girls Corp – Bloody Noses and Hand Grenades (Mosterman Records / EMP Label Group) (March 1)

Weird cross of indie rock with 90’s grunge and electronic/industrial elements (think something like White/Rob Zombie more than even NiN and Marilyn Manson, much less something more true to the industrial sound like Skinny Puppy here).

It’s pretty generic, but they do include a weirdly stiff version of Billy Idol’s “flesh for fantasy” that’ll make you appreciate the original even more than you already did, simply by comparison.

Zephyra – “Fange I Frihet” (Kingart Productions)

Oddball Swedish modern metal band. Femme fronted, the lady sounds like the kind who’d throw down in a barfight and take a few wimps down along the way.

It’s a bit too lunkheaded in terms of riffing and pretty rough around the edges vocally (the lady’s certainly angry and probably tough, but does that leave you wanting to listen to more?)…

…but again, it’s only a single, and we hate to pass judgement based on one lone track.

Dekathlon – “Two Worlds” (digital single) (Ektro) (March 7)

We’d covered this duo’s The Thin Road only a month back, and found the flipside interesting and worthy.

This one’s only a single track, but thankfully still appends more to the template being tapped by the superior of the two tracks last month, this time coming off somewhere between Eurythmics, Cetu Javu and Yaz thanks to the alto range female (guest) vox.

So far, this Jussi Letislaho side project seems to be shaping up fairly well…curious what the coming months will bring.

ORIGIN – Abiogenesis – A Coming Into Existence (Agonia Records) (May 3)

Okay…can you even imagine a genre miscegenation more abominably wrongheaded than tech death and grindcore?

Seriously.  Atonally busy fretwork, quirky off time riffing and drumming supposedly representing some “pinnacle” of player skill (as if eschewing melodies and harmonic construction ever resulted in anything of lasting value)…and the simplest, lowest form of teenaged just picked up an instrument and damn I’m pissed off at the world sub-death metal?  How does that even work?

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Shrapnel shred all star band…doing war metal!

So…yeah. You know exactly what to do with this.

Just be careful you don’t get hit with the embers that it sparks.

OCTOBER TIDE – In Splendor Below (Agonia Records) (May 17)

You know, when it comes to doom/death or gothic doom, one name a lot of folks toss around but we never do is Katatonia.

Well, here come long running Katatonia six stringers Fredrik and Mattias Norrman with their current act October Tide…and maybe this is the exception that proves the rule as to why.

We’d actually covered their last album Winged Waltz, but that was far closer to template than what you’ll ever find herein.

No, this is a far more aggressive affair, with multitracked gargle-growl vox and crunchier, more pointedly death metallish guitars…in fact, it’s closer to a midtempo (modern) death metal album than it ever even approaches doom of any sort (death, gothic or hell, even melodeath, for that matter! Are we sure these are the same guys?)

Again, was never overly moved by the Katatonia sound, for whatever reason, but while the last October Tide record came off reasonably according to genre template?

This one…really doesn’t. And that’s no positive.

 

K-X-P – IV (Svart Records) (May 17)

Yet another simply entitled release from these Finnish retro-motorik krautrock types, their first in three years, apparently.

We’d covered their rather meh History of Techno back in 2014, followed by the more appealing III Part 1 in 2015 and finally striking gold with III part 2 in 2016.

No idea why they’ve waited so long to drop the sequel, but better to take your time and deliver quality than rush things and get…lesser things, shall we say.

And while this three track release is something of a mixed bag, the bulk of what you’ll hear herein does in fact apprehend to the maxim, delivering what is almost as good (if overly brief) a release as III Part 2.

Once again, the ghosts of Kraftwerk and Rheingold haunt their works, with hints of the darker, more danceable synthpop of the early 80’s wafting in and out of view, their scent tickling the nostrils just enough to be noticed, but fading away into ephemera the closer you try to focus in on them.

“Night Eye/Smile Through Tears” could easily have been an outtake from R., while some 90’s style deep club drum n’ bass informs the somewhat schizophrenic “Nimeton tie”.

Unfortunately, that’s also the release’s most compromising effort: a track which starts off with an expectant pregnant tension, before dropping into a disappointingly generic midsection that goes on far too long, stops dead…and finally picks up and builds into more or less what you’d expected was coming towards the end.

Excise a good 12 minutes out of the thing, maybe you’ll have something stronger…maybe not. But it’s a midpoint lag to both track and album that it’s hard to recover from.

Thankfully, while hardly as strong as their opening salvo, K-X-P close on a similarly minded, if far briefer take on the Kraftwerk/Rheingold school of synthesizer based propulsive dance music, “hex bag”. The works of Circle come to mind here, as well.

While it’s debatable whether or not this one reaches the same heights as III Part 2, it’s certainly playing in the same ballpark…and that’s a good thing.

Well worth a listen if the above catches your fancy.

H.C. Slim – Sings (Svart Records) (May 24)

Cutesy put-on where Finnish millenial pretends they’re Leadbelly (who himself was putting folks on many a year back…) or early Dylan (ditto, squared).

Skipping the self-created legend of the promo materials entirely, this is sort of a sub-Bruce Cockburn circa Christmas, a straight up folk affair with little hum n’ sing ditties on acoustic guitar, no neo-, gothic- or dark- about it.

Did nothing for me, but no issue if you’re into this sort of retro-folk revival thing.

Just don’t buy the bullshit story he’s trying to sell, it’s kind of ridiculous.

Entombed – Clandestine – Live (Threeman Productions) (May 17)

Speaking of classic death metal albums…here comes the second best of Entombed’s two pillars of power (and to this day, aficionados argue its comparative worth to the Left Hand Path material, even in the absence of LHP’s Lars Goran-Petrov and the rather Death-like inclusion of blink and you missed him live frontman Johnny Dordevic as faux-vocalist in the album credits…when everyone knew it was Nicke all along.)

Problem is…it’s another of those “classic albums live” tours, this time recorded for posterity. Fans love this shit, but I never understood it.

Yeah, you hope for the band to play the old material you loved and grew up on…but wouldn’t you want more of a mix, one song from here, two from there, a demo or B-side…surprise me, you know? Here, it’s just a poorly performed several decades on rehashing of the exact album and in the exact order that you’ve been playing it for all these years. The point of this? I mean, beyond an aging act paying their bills for another few months?

So here comes 3/5 of the band…or more accurately given the vocalist issues at the time, 3/4 of same, with some new guys (possibly Nicke’s brother or something, they share the same surname) on vox and bass.

While it is Nicke on drums and both Uffe and Alex on guitars…a lot of the solos sound…shaky, as if they got lost trying to remember exactly how to play this stupid lick I wrote when I was a goddamned teenager…sigh, it’s a living!

Well, it always was a great album…personally, while I still do prefer LHP to Clandestine, the frequent movie quotes lent some extra frisson and variety that the former’s reworking of Nihilist demo material just didn’t have. And that’s not even reckoning with the album’s best track, “crawl”…

It’s really the band’s first and only album (worth hearing, anyway…) not leaning nigh-exclusively on Nihilist songs…and maybe that’s why they close out the show by performing the only material on LHP that didn’t pre-exist the name change and split with Johnny Hedlund, namely the title track.

As everyone knows, after Clandestine, the band jumped the shark into a neo-grungelike no man’s land of “groove” and “death n’ roll” with the questionable at best Wolverine Blues and whatever the fuck followed it (after that abrupt shift in direction, who cared, honestly?)

…so to have both guitarists and the drummer back in the same room playing straight up, genre defining Swedish death metal is in itself pretty cool.

Look, it’s one of the great albums of the genre. Not sure why you’d feel the need to hear it done live by portions of the band over a quarter of a century on…but if you’re going to pick bands and albums to waste your time doing this with, this ain’t a bad choice.

Armagedda – Ond Spiritism (Nordvis Produktion) (May 24)

Last month, we’d reviewed the reissue of Armagedda’s debut album, Final War Approaches, and found it quite true to the spirit of the nascent second wave of black metal…despite hailing from the decidedly late date of 2001.

This month, Nordvis skips over their second album to reissue their third album…and then goes backwards to reissue a compilation of early EP and demo work. Does that middle child have bad breath, or something?

Anyway, Ond Spiritism finds an almost unrecognizable mutation of the Swedish duo, slowed down to a crawl, stripped down sonically…and losing the entirety of their former old school atmosphere and spirit in the process.

Seriously…if you didn’t have the same band name attached, you’d think this were some far, far inferior side project from “former members of” Armagedda.

This one doesn’t just kinda blow, it sucks some serious ass.

No surprise they called it quits after this one…because they’d clearly lost their way.

Armagedda – Echoes In Eternity (Re-Issue)

Thankfully, things were much better at the beginning of their brief run, and that’s exactly where we’re going here – straight back to their earliest demo, EP and split appearances.

Beyond the expected sound issues when dealing with demos, live and rehearsal work, it’s a bit odd that this one picks and chooses, rather than representing a full compilation of this material.

While all split contributions and the pre-Final War EP are present and accounted for, you only get about half of their demo…which leaves this akin to Beherit’s “Complete Worxx” in that respect. Weirdly, while it may be unsurprising that they include a pair of covers of Bathory and Burzum, it is a bit strange that the same Bathory cover appears in both rehearsal and live versions here, while other originals were dropped entirely…

And it’s too bad, because while I’d still point the curious to Final War Approaches to see what this band was all about, unlike their ignominious sendoff Ond Spiritism, a lot of this material is actually pretty solid.

Erancnoir – S/T  (Morrowless Music) (April 12)

Long, pensive and introspectively “Cascadian” black metal, complete with rather Burzumesque keyboard tones…from Teheran, Iran, of all places.

Seriously, the only element that really stands out as odd here is the weirdly upbeat feel of said keyboards…which while working from the same Casio tone bank, are clearly not evoking the same sad emotion.

Otherwise? Two long tracks (16m and 25m, respectively) with only reverb-heavy glossolalian snarls as accompaniment to all the relentless tremelo and blastbeat to double bass drumming with glacially plodding bass and keyboard tones.

You already know if you dig this style or not…just be prepared for that inappropriate positivity the keys here bring.

Huszar – Providencia (Morrowless Music) (May 3)

Opening on ambient drone and closing on quirky synthesizer experimentation as BGM, this weird-ass “blackgaze” project out of Argentina then leans “post-black” indie on “todos lost hipersuenos…” before going back to the ambient experimentation.  Then back to the post-black business again.

It’s really bizarre, nothing about this caught my fancy…yeah, it’s pretty much a coaster.

This one’s fit for burning. Give ‘er the old heave-ho!

WHIZZZ!!!!

ouch, that was one hell of a snap, crackle and pop…watch out for flying CD shrapnel!

…next?

Crowhurst – III (Prophecy) (April 5)

“then in the toilet of glory, we will vomit souls.”

uh…yeah, suuuuuure! 

This choice bon mot hails from a track I’d have thought would’ve apprehended to a far more philosophic premise, given its titular evocation of Sartre’s No Exit…and yet, this sweaty, sophomoric juvenalia is all you get.

Lots of British accented screaming that occasionally gives way to a faux-gothic rock baritone moan (“self portrait with halo and snake”)…but mostly screaming like a loon over black metallish tremelo riffing and blastbeats.

(a pause. a disbelieving shake of the head. a huge-ass sigh.)

…just…just take this sledgehammer to it. This one’s not even worth cremation in the Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards.

Even the smoke from this one would be noxious, just smash it to smithereens and wipe its very existence from the annals of historical record.

(icily:)

Next.

 

Laster – Het Wassen Oog (Prophecy) (April 5)

Bizarro Dutch black metal/indie crossover with the most ridiculous of indie leanings, where everything just comes out sounding very wrong.

We’d covered their Ons Vrije Fatum a few years back, and found moments that worked amidst the madness, but that’s simply not present and accounted for this time around.

Yeah, this is pretty hipster happy stuff…though probably still too dark, atonal and weird even for that crowd.

Certainly won’t appeal to the more black metal oriented end of the listener base.

(shrug of the shoulders)

Let’s just move on, shall we?

ASYLUM PYRE – N°4  (April 26)

Strange French take on the European power metal template. One of its members hails from…well, Heavenly, if you remember them, so that may or may not give a general idea here.

The thing is, their sound seems to draw more from Lacuna Coil, with oddly declamatory vocals from leading lady Ombeline “Oxy Hart” Duprat that come off half Grace Slick style menacing virago intimidation, 1/4 actual frontwoman style singing (as on the conclusion to “lady ivy”) and 1/4…builds to screaming freakouts and well, really bad rapping (both on “one day”). In general, she sticks to the intimidation with a bit of vocalizing, but we’re hardly talking to fans of Tarja-era Nightwish or Liv Kristine with this.

There’s also the sadly typical male component to the “beauty and the beast” thing the gothic/symphonic power metal genre is so known for, but thankfully he very much takes a back seat throughout. There enough to roll the eyes at, sure…but it’s mostly Duprat’s show, which is a definite, if admittedly comparative plus.

The problem with all of this is…however Duprat’s vocals come off to you, and however you feel about the whole played out “beauty and the beast” schtick…this isn’t symphonic power metal, and there’s nothing gothic about it.

If anything, this is cyberpunk inflected, quite modern…and yet still more obviously “power metal” than the likes of Lacuna Coil, their most obvious forbear, could ever be. Tracks like “the cemetery road” display the Accept pillar of the genre, and it could be argued that “dearth” draws from the Helloween one…but even at that, things are too compromised to really carry weight with diehard aficionados of the genre.

Now, it’s got some of the upbeat, occasionally anthemic feel (at least at the choruses), and you could say that this is what you’d get if, say, Evanescence suddenly discovered the merits of After Forever and made some overtures in that direction.

Aye, but there’s the rub: would that appeal to fans of Amy Lee and company, much less the type who rubs one out to Battle Beast (and good Lord, they seem to be legion…)?*

* hey, I liked the first two records, as well, but admit it…they made a huuuuuge mistake dumping Nitte Valo for Noora. Speaking of which, aren’t we due for another Vanishing Point about now?

Yeah, we’ve gone off topic, you can see how much interest this one held.

Fair attempt, but too confused and cross-genre to really land a hit, even on a technical.**

** them’s boxing terms, son. Learn ’em!

P.U.T. – WE ARE (BR)OTHERS (Cursed Monk Records) (April 20)

um…

Weird industrial effort. Without the dance or gothic elements that mark the genre.

Then it goes all nu metal (“nothing”). Then they try to go all Killing Technology-era Voivod atonal, before turning Ramones-basic punk.  While buried under boring soap opera dialogue, yet. (“in conflict”) Start over from the top.

Yeah, I don’t have to say a thing here, do I?

mmm-hmm.

That’s right. Burn, baby, burn.

…next?

JARS – II

And another one. Black metal and punk riffing appended to a noise meets Ministry-style industrial affair.

Lots of feedback and squealing fill the room, the vox are processed under a lot of noise and static, nobody’s happy, the dog flees the room to huddle in a distant corner of the house, covering its ears as best it can.

…NEXT?!?

Schattenfall – Melancholie des Seins (Redefining Darkness Records) (March 22)

Seriously raw throated snarly vox bend the nose out of joint on this otherwise fairly straightforward, occasionally trancelike and reasonably melancholic black metal affair.

Essentially, whenever our intrepid frontman shuts the fuck up and grabs another knockwurst and pint of beer, Schattenfall sound astronomically better than they ever could with him screeching away and blowing out the levels on both mic and mix per se.

Chants, relatively subtle use of synth and acoustic guitars enliven matters every now and again on the instrumental end, and while the production could certainly stand some serious improvement, it’s hardly painful to the ear…at least not until he comes back between bites for another assault on everyone’s ears.

Again…not a bad band of its type by any means.

Just a really annoying “vokill-ist”, who only managed to “vo-kill” their shot at a good review.

Critical Extravasation – Morbid Existence (Redefining Darkness Records) (April 5)

Russian death metal. Surprisingly given its parentage (both in the modern era and from behind the former Iron Curtain), it sounds fairly straightforward, even bearing some retro-worthy heft.

Didn’t like the vox at all, but you’ve certainly heard much worse in post-1993 death metal (or such as there has been any even worth discussing since that date), and there’s not only some busy (but not annoyingly “tech” or “prog death”) riffing, but some interesting, even quite worthy soloing going on.

They even do a fairly on point cover of an old Morgoth tune. Yeah, I’m pretty much sold on these guys.

Solid.

Hellripper – Black Arts & Alchemy EP (Reaper Metal Productions) (April 5)

These guys got really lucky.  Somehow, they got two different reviews on two different days of two different weeks.  As both are more or less in the same ballpark (it’s not like one’s a throw of the horns and the other a huge slag, or something)…I’m dropping both on ya.  So there!

Review A:

“Scotland’s answer to Midnight!”

So proclaim the promo materials on this US blackthrash affair from the furthest reaches of the UK. These guys work a high speed, driving if simplistically riffed take on the sort of throwback sound essayed so flawlessly by Colombia’s Witchtrap, but with seriously crazy sounding vox that scream and snarl in triplicate (it’s obviously at least double tracked on the vocal end) throughout.

I’m not sure I’m hearing Midnight so much, here, though I can certainly see them sharing a stage as complementary sibling acts, the same way I could see them open for Witchtrap, Deathhammer or any number of other US, Teutonic, or even certain South American blackthrash/speed metal acts…so it’s hardly a million miles off the mark, however given to hyperbole that opening statement actually turns out to be.

Not bad…but again, would prefer a less front and center (or less insane sounding) vocal to go with all that punkish riffing.

Review B:

Vox aside (which get a bit over-nasty in a black metal sense), this is a modern iteration of the same sort of vintage-minded “speed metal”/blackthrash as the mighty Witchtrap have built their career upon…and at points, almost comes off as good.

That riff in the title cut is pretty Dissectionlike…but sped up to a degree where it loses the boredom and becomes halfway palatable. And then you get the throw it into fourth gear and let ‘er rip of “all hail the goat”, which takes the Motorhead/Venom/early Bathory affectations of USPM and ramps ’em up by about 50 knots of high speed in your face piss and vinegar.

“Decrepit christ” comes off almost Whiplashlike, even giving the not so subtle lyrical nod of “nailed to the cross” as part of the chorus…hello, the three Tonys!

“Headless angels” sounds very Midnightlike (and nice nod to Slayer, there…) and BAM! Just like that, you’re done. Four songs, in and out,
no waiting, no bullshit.

Yeah, this one of two major schools of USBM done right, with an all out
emphasis on balls to the wall hold on to your hats its gonna be a bumpy ride speed.

Throw those horns, toss the guys a well deserved beer and fire up those Harleys in salute.

Appalling – Inverted Realm (Redefining Darkness Records) (May 3)

Odd US based black/death act who seem to be leaning more or less to a speedy “tech” on the death end, but then slow down for many of their more pointedly black metal ones.

Isn’t that usually the reverse, assuming they even leave the established black metal sound beyond a few riffs or drum patterns (as is more typical for this shit)?

Again, odd.

Didn’t much care for it, but not your usual black/death act by a long shot.

BURIAL – Relinquished Souls (Redefining Darkness Records (N. America) & Raw Skull Recordz (Europe) (April 26)

One of a handful of worthwhile Dutch death metal bands from back in the day (namely the untouchable Pestilence, the technical Sinister, the lumbering Asphyx and the middling Gorefest…that was pretty much all
she wrote, kids), Burial always felt a bit more akin to the likes of Messiah, Sorcery…or hell, even Wombbath than any of their countrymen. Well, maybe Sinister, but even then.

I have the old(er) Memento Mori version on CD, and running them side
by side didn’t show a tremendous difference in the mastering, if any (allowing for the intrinsically weaker sound of the digital mp3 to the more expansive, designed to be played loud ambience of the CD).

The only major change, beyond restoration of the original formatting
on the artwork (the color tone is a brighter blue, the band logo is shunted to the corner in a little red box. MM fucked with it a little, while still retaining the actual art proper) is the absence of the Frigid Cold demo this time around. Completists consider yourselves warned, others probably won’t care much as most of its tracks are repeated under better studio conditions on the album proper.

I’m always happy to hear (and cover) reissues of classic albums, particularly those in the more “obscure” corners of the death/thrash/black metal underground (or the goth/punk one, for that matter!), so this was a pleasant rest stop while making my way through the reviews this month – hats off to Redefining Darkness for pulling this one out of the mothballs once again for those who may not have already indulged.

It’s a good one, and as classic a death metal album as they come – especially if you’re talking a few steps outside of the mainstream of Morrisound and Sunlight’s respective aegis.

NALE “Ghost Road Blues” (re-release) (Black Lodge Records) (May 17)

Well, we’d covered their latest Death. Skulls. Satan. around this time last year, and this is a reissue of the album prior.

Rescued from the obscurity of what is very likely a private press (who
the fuck is “lovemore records”, anyway?), current label Black Lodge Records drops yet another slab of aggro (albeit with quirky modern metal touches to the expected Panteraesque dumbo riffing).

Oy, I’m getting a headache from this running through the headphones.

Give this one a good long toss into the flames, willya?

That Pile of Dead Bards just keeps getting filled higher and higher, the
more of it that burns away each month…

As Paul McFartney once warbled, “all the lonely losers…where do they all come from?”

(sweetly, as if Bob Ross were gently whispering it to you between paint scrapes)

…next?

Pretty Wild – Interstate 13 (BLACK LODGE RECORDS) (May 31)

Glam rock from Sweden. While it bears the melodic vibe and obvious song construction that used to mark the poppier end of the genre (think anything from Winger to Firehouse to Slaughter and Warrant, here), the vocals are so especially high and light as to suggest a female frontwoman…when it’s a dude.

Well, we did mention Firehouse and Slaughter…I guess Nitro, TNT and Stryper had pretty light and high vox as well…

Most of the tracks are pretty high energy and driving, which already pushes it above the likes of Bon Jovi with all their balladeering (particularly circa and post-New Jersey!), and the strong lead playing from (get this moniker:) Axl Ludwig (pfft!) brings more musically proficient acts like Trixter or XYZ to mind, but this is more of an upbeat, danceable pop rock than any variant of metal or even the harder end of AOR.

Regardless, the choruses are strong, the playing is good, the songs are wrapped up tight confections sure to tickle the ear and bring better times (and better music!) to mind…you can almost hear 1989 calling every time you run one of the tracks here.

Don’t let the particulars steer you wrong, this is ultimately very strong,
extremely palatable stuff for those inclined to this corner of the hard rock/AOR/glam metal spectrum.

Lykantropi – Spirituosa (Lightning Records) (May 24)

You know, from the werewolf baiting moniker and some lyrics crossed with a sound this pointedly late 60’s/early 70’s, all flutes, tube amp driven dual guitars and alto female vox, you’d think this were yet another “occult rock” act along the lines of greats like The Devil’s Blood, Blood Ceremony or even Jex Thoth and Lucifer.

And yet…no, not really.

This is more akin to Sammal, Seremonia or perhaps Bathsheba (okay, that one’s a bit of a stretch…), pointedly retro hippie (or post-hippie) rock of the superior variety all but ghosted by the yawn inducing payola eternal top 40 playlist that is “classic rock radio”.

It actually moves, breathes, has a groove and feels natural, organic…something the tired, drugged out stodginess of Zeppelin, Bad Company and their ilk never could or did.

If it sounds like I liked this one…you’re right.

Could have used a bit more of the ol’ witchiness, to be sure…but what
the hell. It works.

And like my grandpa used to say all the time, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Year Of The Locust – S/T (March 1)

One effective indie gone emo track (“whispers in the dark”), two that border groove and nu (the bouncy, almost CoC-esque “line ’em up”, the oddly Five Finger Deathpunchlike “sorry”), and one that puts a bit of the energy of those two into the emo-pop format heard earlier (“stay alive”).

Strangely enough, all of ’em do actually work, particularly when
they get all overdramatic on “whispers” and “stay alive”…there’s a lot of polish and pop knowhow playing into what could in other hands have been little more than laughable trash.

So don’t ask me why, because I really couldn’t say beyond that just why Year of the Locust manages, against all odds, to succeed with flying colors…

…while working styles that generally doom their purveyors to mockery
and abject failure.

As Norman Fell once told ya on some ridiculous prime time special in the 80’s (you had to see this abomination to believe it…:)

“Don’t ask me, ask God.”*

* seriously, see if you can find a copy somewhere online or whatever.  It’s hilariously bad, and for all its titular hubris, actually succeeds in answering none of the postulates posed…


Backstabber – Conspiracy Theorist (February 15)

When’s the last time you heard a death metal record open with the vintage AOL dial up modem tone?

Sure enough, these Quebecois riffmeisters cover weird-ass subject matter like online privacy and right wing conspiracy theories (hell, they even dig back past Alex Jones and the Fox crowd to Hitler’s “hollow Earth” obsessions…)

Given how aggressive this actually is in performance (think mid to late 90’s, familiarly old school acts having run out of ideas and giving way to far more tedious material before either hanging it up or trudging their way into ever smaller crowds in ever tinier venues), it’s actually hard to say whether this is delivered as tongue in cheek as you’d expect…or if they’re tin foil MAGA hat wearing dupes as well. I mean, seriously…

So if you don’t mind the comedy (intentional or no) of the lyrical focus and are looking for some perfectly acceptable and suitably aggressive (if admittedly unexciting) just post-heyday death metal?

Here’s your fix, they’re pretty solid given the middling standards they’re shooting for and therefore are being judged by.

Norilsk – Weepers of The Land (Hypnotic Dirge) (October 12)

Now here’s a hard to describe one.

It’s clearly in the doom spectrum, that much is easy. It’s got death metal vox. OK, so doom/death. It’s pretty slow…but not funeral doom.

The production is crisp and the vox and distortion aren’t shoved so far up front that they’re blowing the meters, so not exactly pushing crust or sludge ala Electric Wizard…but there’s a strong feel of stoner rock ala Kyuss to this, even knocking at the door of grunge on tracks like “toute la noirceur du monde” and “tomber 7 fois”.

So what the hell are they doing, actually? Stoner/grunge death/sludge (but not really) doom? It gets pretty muddled and messy.

Want to make things weirder? The three tracks they do in English lean more doom/death…and if not funeral doom, then say “more or less in the vein of Winter and Sorrow”. But the two aforementioned tracks in French? Stoner/grunge all the way. Was this clear and obvious split in styles and languages deliberate? No idea.

So it’s pretty apparent to those who’ve been following these monthly missives over the years that I really dug those three English tracks…and was kind of meh on the two in French.

It’s all pretty listenable, no worries on that account…but it’s almost like
each of the band’s two listed members were responsible for half of the album…and whoever stuck to the native tongue delivered the (comparative) losing end of the deal.

Tant pis…j’enfrai pas un maladie, as the estimable BB once playfully crooned.

Certainly get this one for the first half…and despite comments above, you won’t exactly be whipping the disc out of the player in disgust when it all goes Francais, either.


S.R.L. – Hic Sunt Leones (Rockshots Records) (February 8)

hmm. “melothrash?”

That’s what this screamo vocalled act out of sunny Italy is serving up, with the expected death metal crunch, overly punchy drums (seriously, that snare is kind of annoying, being pushed so far in front of all other instruments…) and melodic lead lines…but riffs that speak more to thelikes of Demolition Hammer and Malevolent Creation, if that…it’s more dark thrash than death metal for the most part.

Despite the weird mix, drums actually have a nice tone here, at least in terms of both snare and double bass. Either this guy doesn’t own a full kit or does all his “tom rolls” on the snare…

The only real issue with this is the perfectly shite vocals, which come straight out of metalcore, or what passes for “hardcore” these days…or the screamer (backing or otherwise) from some shitty emo act. If all these dopes don’t wind up with throat surgery from all the polyps they’re building on their vocal chords, I tell ya…

Band’s at their best when they slow things down and get dual guitar melodic/dramatic, as on “tenebre”.

Really good track, decent band overall…except for that fool going WUAAAAAHHHH GAAAAAAAH YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH all over the damn thing!

 

Oculum Dei – Dreams of Desire and Torment (February 22)

Blackened death metal (as opposed to the more typical and boring black/death nonsense bands like Behemoth and Watain espouse) out of Charlotte, NC.

There are actually shifts in tempo and style from one track to the next, and much of it (the best parts, actually) are more deliberate and midtempo, as with the long instrumental opening half of “dreams of desire and torment” or its immediate successor “a cold winter’s plight”.

In fact, if they’d eschew the more standard fast bits entirely, they’d be even more of an individualistic act…but given the usual black metal shriek vox, I suspect they’re trying more to push the boundaries from within accepted parameters of genre than to smash through entirely with a sound all their own.

Either way, it’s a huge improvement over this particular corner of the black metal world’s template…I’d take their unique brand of blackened death over the more accepted and overused “black/death” any day of the week.

Crypteria – S/T  (October 12, 2018)

Floridian death metal. Ah, brings back memories of a truly awesome scene…

Oh, hold up…they’re tech death, sort of akin to Nile, later Gorguts or Cryptopsy. um, yeah, forget it…not what I was thinking AT ALL!

So…yeah, you probably already know what you think of this one, for good or ill.

I stopped listening to death after Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, only circling back to Spiritual Healing after being wowed by James Murphy on his magnum opus, Obituary’s Cause of Death. Schuldiner got too weird and complicated for his own good…and who wants to hear “real world problems” from a fucking death metal band, anyway? Horror movies, bro…that’s what the genre’s all about!

So, yeah…this one’s not going to do a hell of a lot for an old school death metaller like yours truly. But that’s not saying they can’t play well, that the music actually sucks or that they’re doing anything so weird and irritating here that it’s impossible to sit through…just that in the end, it didn’t exactly light any fires ’round these parts.

Your own take may well differ – give ’em a spin and see.

Ashen Horde – Fallen Cathedrals (Extrem Metal Music / Rockshots Records) (March 22)

“Hailing from the cold, unforgiving wastelands of Hollywood, California(!)”

So begins the hilarious (and obviously tongue in cheek) promo writeup for this La La Land based two man job that comes off quite strangely.  Namely that they’re very much a black metal act on one hand…yet with the riffing, speed and aggression of a deaththrash band. Oh, and a lot of what they’re doing is pushing atonal.

Fast, weird, noisy and bizarre enough to be considered post-black metal…but even that designation has come to encompass its own borders and definitions, generally meaning “softer, airier indie rock with blackened affectations and/or vocals”…which these guys are very much not.

“Agressive post-black metal?” “Post-black/death/thrash?”

Who knows. Either way, doesn’t work.

Next?

Accursed Spawn – The Virulent Host (PRC Music) (March 22)

Something about these guys reminded me simultaneously of later Deicide and Solstice (the US death/thrash act, not the UK folkish doom metallers).

There’s a lot of high speed aggression, but with enough chugging locomotive vibe to keep things more or less in check.

I wasn’t overly fond of the vocals…but you can say the same of Glen Benton once he stopped using the dual vocal thing (and harmonizers, which he denies using, but is likely why the first album blows the rest of their catalogue all to shit). Listenable for the type…but a kinda meh to eye rolling performance there.

So if you like what’s being inferred by all of this, you probably already know whether this one’s for you or not.

I’m somewhat on the fence about its relative merits, but it’s close enough to the aforementioned template to pass muster.

Saeva – “Sanguine Rite” (January 25)

Colorado’s black/death act Saeva (not to be confused with Sweden’s black/folk act Saiva…come on, guys, a little originality, here!) drops this 6 minute 44 second slab of occasionally (at its best, i.e. the intro and solo through outro) pensive and vaguely proggy but otherwise disenhearteningly standard black/death delivered in the usual manner.

If it weren’t for the long thoughtful build and especially that long close, this may well have wound up tossed into the ever-hungry flames of the Pyre of Dead Bards.

But those moments suggest these guys are capable of so much better than slavish adherence to a snooze inducing, mainly Swedish origin standard that really needs to be put to bed already.

We’ll see what a fuller length release brings before passing any real judgment on these guys.

The Flaying – Angry, Undead (PRC Music) (March 22)

Produced by a guy who worked with Cryptopsy, it’s kind of unsurprising that these Quebecois are working from much the same playbook.

Overly techy, busy and snooze inducing, but you can’t say it’s not a polished production or that the guys play sloppy, so that’s something, I guess.

Next?

Misshapen – Transcendence (February 8)

Well, that was nice!

Just kicked this one off, as usual of late, with final track “transcendence”, which is the most Cynic track you’re likely to hear outside of the band themselves, all airy and almost jazzy before breaking into a noisier blackened (tech) death schtick…

and which at least has an overriding melodic sense, melodeath/metalcore mutiple lead lines and the wisdom to switch back to clean chant/almost robotic vocals to offset all the nasty snarling and suchlike.

“The pressures of time pt. 2” further pushes things into prog/power territory, albeit with those omnipresent chugging, yet ever shifting prog/tech death riffs. Even “the swarm”, which veers too far into Cradle of Filth territory (without the Decadent gothic business to make that actually work, mind) to be taken seriously, is at least interesting in all its shifts and twists and turns.

Nothing here is less than listenable, and while admittedly occasional, parts are practically transcendent.

Yeah, I was very much good with this one, which despite some frequent missteps (skip the black metal snarls and veers into that territory, huh?) turned out so much better than it sounds on paper.

Sludgehammer – Antechamber (April 12)

“Bring out the whiskey bottle, it’s time to fucking rage…we’ll crack it open and we’ll make it rain!”

…umm, yeah, sure!

and all this, set to an insistent, driving riff sure to set mosh pits afire across the Great White North.

Well, hey, at least you gave me a good laugh, eh?

Sadly, little else here lives up to that zinger of a celebratory track of inebriation, instead adhering more to a sort of groove/death ala later Obituary with nu metal style over-detunings and doofy vocals more akin to the fat guy bellowing out crumbs between bites of a Manwich so favored by the sludge scene.

Didn’t work in any way, shape or form…except for that hilariously ridiculous homage to booze n’ bud aforementioned. It’s entitled “line ’em up”, if you’re going to grab the one track and forget the rest of this nonsense.

Which is exactly what I recommend.

Our Dying World – Expedition (EP) (March 18)

Insistent, more or less melodic thrash riffing marred mainly by meretricious aggro vox.

It’s fairly straightforward and repetitive, but listenable enough and prone to start crowds a’ moshing…but enough with the shitty vox, people!

BLEEAH BURRP GAAAH WAAAH…enough with this loser business as the only way to show you’re “hard”.

Learn to sing or stylize and let the fucking music speak for itself, hard, soft or in between.

One more for the flames!

WHIZZZZ!!!

Disappointing. Was expecting more of a reaction, there…just some feeble green flames.

Guess that’s what happens when the band’s not so bad, just afflicted with a terrible frontman…

…next?

Blackguard – “By My Hand” (March 8)

And here’s a single featuring someone from Kittie. Remember them? Sort of the Babes in Toyland of the late 90’s/early millenium?

Yeah, I know. Curb your enthused excitement.

So as you’d expect…a lot of snarling and growling, both male and female, over what otherwise appears to be an overly symphonic Euro metal base. zzzzzz

Who knows what these guys sound like normally…but given the male growl vox here, this is probably their best foot forward.

(huge sigh and exasperated shake of the head)

…next?

EXTREMA – “For The Loved And The Lost” (Rockshots Records/ Universal) (March 6)

Modern thrash with more of a groove base than not. Music worked just fine, but again, gravel gargling vox. At least it wasn’t screaming, growling and snarling…but not what I’d have chosen to front my band.

Riff is fairly insistent, solo is overdependent on wah ala Zakk Wylde or Kirk Hammett, but not bad otherwise…overall, fair enough.

Yeah, I’d be curious what a full length from these guys might bring, this wasn’t bad.

Anomalism – Parasitic Spawn (EP) (January 4)

Winnipeg tech death act. Dual vomit/snarl vox.

Tech death is never my thing, but it’s well produced and the riffs are very in your face and insistent (noticing a trend for this with the Canadian thrash acts this month…)

At points, they get pretty fucking weird, like some unholy cross between Grotesque, Necrophobic and Tourniquet (“cryptosphere”), but other tracks work much better, and “parasitic spawn” was so old school death, it even worked for yours truly (no shit…I liked that track, period.)

Bottom line, at best a mixed verdict…but it definitely had more pluses than minuses given both subgenre and type.

SINNRS – Profound (Rockshots Records/ Extreme Metal Music) (April 26)

Black/death with a more bombastic (they self-proclaim “symphonic”) bent.

The symphonic in this is more sparing than you’d ever expect, with long stretches being more wide open, slow moving chords alternating with high speed black metal tremelo riffing and snarly-growl vox over relentless double bass footwork on the kit.

For large swathes of the album, you won’t hear any keyboard at all…then it shows up with chant samples and lush enhancement to the guitar/drum tank that’s barrelling through your headphones. It’s not exactly “subtle”, but it’s really a bit of a stretch to classify this as “symphonic black”…more of “expansive, dramatic black/death with occasional keyboard garnish”.

As such…it really wasn’t all that bad, for black/death.

Hell, a few tracks like “commemorate none”, I actually kinda liked.

Eye of the Destroyer – Baptized in Pain (High Potency) (May 17)

Oy, this is from North Jersey? Sheesh, didn’t think any of that lunkheaded screamo shit they call “hardcore” hailed from the NYC area…

So yeah, that’s what this is…the “new crossover”, with that dogshit appended to crunchier, more death metallish riffing (instead of actual hardcore punk crossed with thrash, like the original crossover scene. Damn, things done changed…and not for the better!)

BLUAAAH BWAAAH WUAAAH URRP GUUUAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

Fuck this shit.

Next?

Hosemen – Saturday Nite Conformity (April 19)

Fascinatingly familiar yet bizarre, this very British* amalgam of 90’s genres like Britpop, shoegaze, grunge and Cure-style postpunk comes complete with ringing clean guitars that go all stompbox distortion straight into Blur/Bushlike paroxysms of muted nerd rage, all skinny armed, dirty T shirt and messy hair yelling about being just a rat in a cage and all that.

* from Stamford, CT, yet…say huh?

Hell, even Helmet gave their seal of approval…probably because the stylistic similarities are pronounced at points. Only at points, but yeah.

Frontman Anthony Carpanzano wraps his lips around the mic like he’s giving the damn thing a blowjob, all lips flapping and sputtering off contact with it in every word. It’s everything they tell you NOT to do when using a PA, but dead on at recapturing the junkie slacker I just don’t give a shit vibe of the heyday of acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Sponge.

And then there’s that Cure meets Cult business that shows up in the riffing every so often (like the intro to “hollow man”), or even the Red Lorry Yellow Lorry vocal tones of the title cut…yeah, it’s all over the damn place, if remaining quite British in influence and approach, through and through.

I liked this quite a bit, as bizarre as it was. Like Catherine Wheel retooled for the new millenium or something, this is indie oddball shit and you’d think well outside yours truly’s general purview…but if you had to live through all the bad music and culture of that decade, you got your little breaths of semi fresh air wherever you could.

So yeah, this stuff is familiar, and I tend not to mind it a bit…hell, even get a bit nostalgic for some of it, 20 years on.

Hits all its marks, splitting each successive arrow in turn.

Hats off, spot these geezers a pint. Cheers!

Zero Fire – Second Sun (March 22)

Very 90’s power pop meets grunge legacy, this Canuck act pulls together the thick, well produced riffing of a Bush or Foo Fighters with the harmony vocals and melodicism of, say, Veruca Salt (yeah, I know that one’s a bit of a stretch…wasn’t big on that decade’s “alternative” that actually went quite mainstream) to deliver a pleasant sounding if simplistic and melancholic effort sure to please those who were

It was catchy enough, that’s for damn sure…evoked some rather weird memories of that time, which was both the worst of times (the first half of the decade) and the best of them (the latter half).

If you have affection for the 90’s alterna-sound (anywhere from grunge
to what was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to pass as punk at the time),
this one should more than fill the bill…it’s pretty damn solid.

Lightsabres – A Shortcut to Insanity (Medusa Crush Recordings) (December 30)

Well, it’s 90’s grunge with some shoegaze bits…but with weirdly singsong declamatory vocals that brought (of all bands) Life of Agony to mind. Oh, and it’s from Sweden, of all places.

Then we leave all the trippy psychedelicized Smashing Pumpkinsisms aside and go for some oddball spastically high speed variant thereof (“breathing fire”), saved mostly by some dual harmony lead guitar lines and solos…which appear again at the start of the very Zero Firelike “cave in”. Then another high speed one (“sweet oblivion of sleep”)…what the hell?

It’s as if some 90’s band raised on grunge (and most particularly of the Nirvana/Bush school thereof) suddenly discovered Witchfinder General and Iron Maiden, then heard some of the shoegaze business coming over from the UK concurrently like Lush and Curve, then mashed all of it together.

BAM! Swirly overly loud wall of distorted guitars and fuzzed out vocals, but with occasional harmony leads and bursts of (very awkward) speed (which is mainly where the Witchfinder General influence shows its face) that give way to more pensive, even whiny alterna-nonsense on later tracks. It’s very strange.

Is it terrible? No, not at all. In fact, it’s kind of likeable in its heretofore unseen shake n’ bake of related and unrelated genres (grunge/shoegaze, meet NWOBHM/doom…)

But you have to wonder…just what the hell was that bowl they were clearly taking hits off laced with?

Electrocution – Psychonolatry (GoreGorecords) (February 8)

Too late to the game Italian death metal act I’ve never heard of…and their sole 1993 release (and subsequent 1997 EP) is likely a good reason why.

Oddly for a band who at least hail from the ass end of death metal’s brief reign (circa ’89-92/3), they don’t sound very traditional in most respects.

No, at least they’re not black/death or some syncretism of those never should the twain meet genres, and yes, there’s definitely some proper song construction underpinning what you’ll hear within.

But there is, nonetheless, far too much of a busy, noisy, almost tech death vibe to what they’re doing here, with numerous moments of overly detuned nonsense and that sorry crutch of the modern drummer, the blastbeat predominating.

Tag in the raw throated, almost deaththrash vox and very modern, in your face all instruments and vox mixed right up front production, and you have a pretty generic, easily passed over effort from a band that may (or may not, who knows…) once have merited better.

  

The Slurs – Shatter Sessions (February 8)

Almost tongue in cheek, gargled raspy vocals seem to mock what otherwise appears to be a pretty damn solid heavy rock bar band, as if Junkyard went punk or some straight edge punk band “broke edge” and discovered AC/DC and Thin Lizzy all of a sudden.

There’s a touch of Rancid to tracks like “do what you want”, but there’s much more of a driving, melodic thing going on…beyond the aforementioned, you can almost pick up a Johnny Thunders influence here, at least in his essential Heartbreakers days, when they were still demoing Voidoids songs with Richard Hell on bass and alternating on vocals. It’s got that kind of upbeat, rock n’ roll but punk/heavy rock drive to it.

Bottom line, if the vocals and silly “let’s talk about low rent street life” lyrics don’t distance ya too much from the otherwise quite solid punch the band is delivering, you can consider these guys a straight up winner.

Just not sure about those vocals…has to be a joke, there’s no way they could be serious coming off like that.

The Riven – S/T (The Sign Records) (March 1)

Female fronted UK gone Swedish retro-rock act.

Some tracks come off slightly “occult rock” and there’s an obvious retro-70’s air hanging over the entire affair, but there’s way too much punkified punch for this to fool anyone…even the wildest excesses of contemporary punk (much less the proto-metal and hard rock of the day!) were comparatively laid back and mellow.

About the best you can say is some NWOBHM acts may have brought something closer to what you’re hearing herein…though not only would that mislead the reader wildly as to style and approach, but all those much earlier UK bands were far more laid back and stodgy by comparison to the more modernistic and fluid sound these expat Brits deliver.

Again, like Zero Fire or Lightsabres, it’s odd and hard to pinpoint stylistically (they even have what more or less amounts to a straight up bar band blues track, “I remember”)…but remains quite listenable if you’re just looking for something generically retro-rock, with a vaguely 70’s-ish feel.

Basilysk – Emergence (February 22)

Seriously screwed up attempt to marry the more indie strains of prog (Porcupine Tree, anyone?) to straight up death metal…and I don’t mean “prog metal” ala Cynic, either.

Oh, and they close out with 8 tracks of…crickets chirping.

Literally.

Yeah, not like they’re bad players or anything…but this was just too intrinsically wrongheaded for further discussion.

…next?

Becoming the Lion – Ghosts of A Fallen Soldier (December 28)

Did someone say “indie strains of prog”?

Sure enough, here’s some off-time drumming, clean vocalled, somewhat psychedelicized, clean guitarred business, awash in reverb and delay and all Alcest-airy, as if someone took more recent Cynic albums as a template and got even nerdier and more space rock ambient with it.

Absolutely nothing wrong with it…though it may well come off far too light for readers in search of the heavier and more extreme end of our coverage spectrum.

If Faunts seems a tad light for your taste, you may want to steer clear…Becoming the Lion is practically a feather pillow or dandelion in the wind by comparison.

Consider yourself warned.

Usurper – Lords of the Permafrost (Soulseller Records) (February 22)

Chicago death metal act kicking around since ’95.

Yep, that’s another flashing red light warning…they debuted a few years after death metal gave way to the Norwegian second wave black metal onslaught, when absolutely nobody was listening to the stuff anymore, labels had dropped even the biggest of acts and death was, perhaps appropriately, good and buried.

So here you get a very thrash-leaning death metal with some unwelcome Watain-style Swedish black/death flourishes, like ringing open atonal chords…but it’s mainly an overly aggressive, nondescript deaththrash that you’ll encounter herein.

(big ol’ yawn and stretch)

hmm?

oh, yeah.  Those guys. Are you still looking for more?

Didn’t think so.

…next?

Various Artists – Volume Doom (Alternative Control) (February 22)

Comp of, as you might expect, a number of doom-spectrum acts. A few we’d covered previously in these pages, like Owl Maker, Kurokuma, Dust Prophet and Eye of Nix, but the rest are new to these ears.

Year of the Cobra puts their best foot forward, with a pleasant yet sinister female fronted track that builds in urgency and force as it goes, Howling Giant offers some solid generator party-ready stoner rock, even Dust Prophet drops a fairly solid and punchy track herein.

Unfortunately, those three bands are by far the best you’ll find within this comp, with even the strongest of previously covered acts (Dust Prophet aside) tending to offer middling to subpar efforts for use herein.

Of the remaining bands, Low Moments gets much stronger at about the 3 minute mark, but it’s a brief interlude of life and fire amidst a far more lengthy and moribund track, which flounders around before sinking under its own weight into the studio quicksand effect that ends it.

The others? Forget it, even if they’ve done stronger work elsewhere.

Do check out the three tracks earlier mentioned…they’re pretty damn solid.

Atomic Kavemen – S/T (January 4)

Simplistic detuned heavy rock in a sort of doomy, stripped down manner. Promo materials make comparisons to Danzig, and that’s occasionally heard in the straight through the Marshall stack, mids heavy basic distortion single guitar of tracks like “shining”, which were clearly influenced at least in part by John “Christ” Knoll’s work on the first two or three Danzig records.

But where things get more spurious…even before the odd pseudo-Bowie quavering vocals of tracks like “nowhere” or the Southern fried, thickly accented comedy growl vox that appear all over the damn album at random, mind (!)…is in the pseudo-Glenn Danzig throaty half-howl vox that appear elsewhere.

It’s almost like they were taking the piss out of the guy, in some “let’s make fun of Danzig” mock-cover band (where they do such tracks as “father” and “am I loser” to elicit audience snickers), so absurdly put on and half assed are even the most “serious” and obviously intended at copying the Danzig style vox are herein…

If you want a real Danzig clone, you can go Son of Sam (with Davey Havok, before he lost his voice), A.F.I. circa Black Sails (whose EPs oft included Misfits and Samhain covers, to boot) or most especially? The Vladimirs. Nobody does Glenn Danzig like Marquis Thomas, period.

This…well, I appreciate the attempt (especially when the band is trying to follow suit, as in “shining” or even “never release you”)…but it’s too much of an obvious joke to ever even think about taking seriously.

Ungraven – Language of Longing (Black Bow Records) (March 1)

Side project from Conan frontman/guitarist.

It’s more noise inclined, pulling from the more overdistorted and repetitive industrial/noise end of the spectrum than his own act’s rather off kilter take on stoner doom…but the sparse vocals and aimlessly wandering vibe of Conan is all over this as well.

No question of this band’s parentage…the parallels, and failings, of the former are all over the latter.

Wardehns – Now Cometh the Foul (March 15)

hmm…

Oddly busy guitarwork gives way to something more detuned and simplistic at points (“crustacean”, “leech head”)…but more thrashy (“denim dogs”) and blackened at others (“tyranian”, “fangs”). They even lean deaththrash at one point (“shards of the time glass”).

And with those growly trucker belching up crumbs of his latest greasy spoon visit all over the mic vox?

Foul is right!

One more for the flames!

WHIZZZ!!!!

Damn, good thing we set that Pile of Dead Bards aflame a year or two back…can you imagine how much shit would be taking up that particular landfill at this point?

(exasperatedly:)

NEXT!

Grass – Fresh Grass (February 22)

Lumbering stoner rock act out of Brooklyn (of all places!) They play it relatively clean, leaving this more akin to the earlier acts in the genre like Kyuss or CoC, with a riff-centric approach that pulls ’em closer to the genre’s long ago origins in Sabbath, but with zero of the intensity, psychedelic bent or proto-occultism.

In a lot of ways, Grass is more of the school of heavy rock that gave us Grand Funk and Blue Cheer, sloppy and loose and wah-filled on the leads, but pretty tight for blues based stoner riffing and drumming otherwise, with the (unusually) non-lo fi production to match.

I liked this one a lot, it’s pretty top tier within its basic genre and type.

Heavy Feather – Débris & Rubble (The Sign Records) (April 5)

Oh, this is so “classic rock” you’d never believe it.

That same overplayed Bad Company/Argent/Foghat/Allman Brothers sort of sound, with bluesy tube amp driven guitars, light prog meets Hendrix vibe and somewhat countrified feel that’s gotten truckers, construction workers and delivery men through their workday since this stuff was new is not only still being played (same bands, same albums, only even less tracks on repeat, ad nauseaum…yay, “classic rock radio”!), now delivered by a brand spanking new band out of Sweden.

Frontwoman Lisa Lystam sounds a hell of a lot like Cold Blood’s Lydia Pense.

Has a lot going for it, they’re certainly quite solid given the yawn inducing nature of the genre and era they’re aping.

Snake Tongue – No Escape No Excuse (The Sign Records) (February 15)

Annoyingly Discharge gone what passes for “hardcore” these days vox over loose and open sounding (and quite noisy) guitars that give way to death metallish trills and Obituaryesque groove breakdowns before going all black metal tremelo with blastbeats.

You can certainly hear some of the classic Entombed school of Swedeath here, in all its crust punk/death metal crossover, but this is far less likeable, far more noisy and atonal in bent.

mmm…not entirely worthless, given just how often you can pick up the old sub-Sunlight sound (without the strong production, though…this is kind of a red zone mess throughout)…

…but not my idea of fun, either.

Siberian – Live At Studio Underjord (The Sign Records) (February 1)

Another genre gender-blender of syncretistic shite, this one’s all black/death with those ridiculous sludge vocals (see Wardehns above, for one)…

…and some airier, reverb/delay based post-black guitars tossed in at random points between all the more annoying, detuned, atonal and mids-heavy distortion nonsense, for no reason whatsoever. Maybe they wanted to have one lone point listeners wouldn’t hate and reviews wouldn’t have to slam them on?

Oh, and it’s all “live in studio”, as if that meant anything. Though thinking about modern production techniques, it probably does nowadays…

Hint: a lot of bands’ earlier and often best albums were essentially or entirely recorded “live (full band together) in studio”. It’s nice, but not a big deal that needs to be trumpeted.

In any case…nah.

Overt Enemy – Inception (Confused Records) (March 1)

Okay, this is unusual. These guys push themselves as “the best Slayer tribute band in the USA”. umm…sure, that’s nice…

…so why doesn’t this sound much like Slayer at all, even to the extent you can hear ’em all over vintage thrash, particularly the Teutonic and South American varieties thereof?

The vox aren’t exactly Araya, though you can pick up some tonality that says yeah, they may be able to pull off a reasonable facsimile to a sufficiently inebriated audience*…and there’s occasional flourishes in “political cancer” that suggest a Hanneman/Kinglike style is in the quiver.

* at least until that terrible scream in “mercenary”! P-U…

But does this band sound very Slayeresque, some obvious cadences and trick swipes aside?

Not really.

I’d peg these guys closer to a weak take on Anialator, without that wonderful if naive 1987 demo’s undeniable appeal.

Fair attempt, but falls well short of cutting the mustard.

And hilariously, they actually include bowlderized “radio edits”, just in case some wack-ass radio station wanted to add this to rotation!

(shakes head in amusement)

…next?

Huelga – S/T (March 1)

Super quirky tech death sort of affair. All instrumental, but quite atonal and hard to sit through, and very much “extreme” despite claims of bearing a Frank Zappa influence.

I’d compare it to the likes of Unexpect, but they had more musical talent and brief moments of harmony amidst all the barely controlled polytonality and sheer chaos…

…which sadly enough, cannot be said of this one.

Too bad, I hear what he’s trying to get across as a message outside of the “music”.

Sadly, the only message you’ll hear is your ears and brain screaming “I’M GETTTING A HEADACHE, TURN THIS FUCKING SHIT OFF ALREADY!”

Ahl Sina – Troops of Pain (January 15)

Okay. Picture folk metal, anything from Hexvessel to Skyclad to the lighter end of Elvenking, but appended to weirdly overdramatic clean vocals in a semi-gothic vein…which later go all death growls. It’s quite Moonspell in that respect.

But lots of violins, and I don’t mean the joyful Ren Faire Kenny & Tzipora sort of witchy/pagan fiddling you get with Elvenking (until recently, anyway)…but “serious” string quartet business. Later, it goes all Arabic flute, so you’ll feel like you just took a trip to Morocco or were in the middle of Gradiva or Born of Fire all of a sudden.

Tag in some power metal affectations, and you have Ahl Sina, a self proclaimed “oriental extreme metal” act (does anyone even call them
“orientals” anymore? Isn’t that considered outdated and a tad off colour, like the term “negro”?)

The flute bits are interesting, I have to say that…and while not exactly likeable, the string quartet business does mesh surprisingly well with the band, much akin to Believer’s early experiment in that direction, “dies irae” (which may have inspired the entire gothic/symphonic metal scene, though exactly zero of them ever did it half so well!) The death growls are fine (again, think Moonspell), and while the clean vox can get cheesy (ibid), it’s totally listenable, well produced and an interesting experiment all around.

Did I actually like it, though? Now that’s more of a tough nut to crack.

Certainly appreciated the Arabic elements and some drum/percussion bits that play off same…but as a whole, doesn’t go far enough in that direction (and brings in some very different things as an inconvenient distraction in place thereof) for my tastes.

Well produced, certainly must have been a lot of work to coordinate, and the end result is impressive enough.

 

Helevorn – Aamamata (Solitude / BadMoodMan) (January 23)

Gothic doom, akin to Paradise Lost and their ilk.

Very middle of the road and generic, but that style seldom really resonates with yours truly in the first place, so take that into account.

Yeah…they opened for Moonspell once, which seems like a good pairing. You get the idea.

Won’t make you run to shut it off, but a bit aural wallpapery.

Straytones – Beware, Dark Lord! Here comes Bell-Man (Robustfellow Prods) (February 22)

At points psychedelic stoner doom (“dark lord”), others more shoegaze with goofy-ass synthpop elements (“bell man”)…and one ambient synth piece in a retro-John Carpenter “lazerpunk” style (“abyss”).

Yeah…this one’s all over the place, you tell me.

I will say this: without the absurd “bell man”, this would have been a much superior release.


Steam – Osiris (November 12)

Oy.  Overly detuned, tech-death gone aggro/groove…but with some Fauntslike space rock synth elements.

Someone said the cuss word “djent” in relation to this release, that should say it all right there.

If they’d kept it trippy and indie (like on the synth and vocal only “water”), this wouldn’t have been bad…as it is, fodder for the nu metal crowd.

WHIZZ!!!

damn, I never heard so many fart noises from an album hitting the flames…what the hell was in this one?

Must have been a lot of shit.

Next?

Drontheim – Down Below (Wraith Productions) (February 22)

Surprisingly aimless post-metal/indie/prog affair, with clean chiming guitars awash in delay and throbbing bass and clean, oft chanted vocals (good so far…) but which fails to ever really find a consistent direction across its eight oddly disparate tracks.

Moments in “dark passage” lean gothic – think Nosferatu here – but the track never quite goes all the way into that camp, remaining quirkily indie throughout. “Deadlight” falls off the bus entirely in its moan and groan Type O Negativeness (cannot stand anything the late Peter Steele was involved with post-self titled Carnivore)…then it really gets weird.

“House of horus” is practically Prophecy style dark neofolk, “ship of fools” is an annoying collage effort that leans dance but never actually coheres into listenability, “fathom” pushes too far into an awkwardly industrial territory (think Suspiria as mixed by a crackhead) and “the lovelose dager” is…what the hell is that, anyway?

The only tracks that work at all are “draume”, which actually sounds Luna Sea or L’Arc en Ciel-esque, albeit with one or two layers too many of bizarre collage electronic effects that don’t fit or belong, and at a bit of a stretch, the aforementioned “dark passage”.

There are elements here that do work – the throbbing bass, the clean production, the dark vibe of much of the riffing – but the band can’t seem to decide on a direction and there’s too much unnecessary and ill fitting sound layering going on.

Strip it back to the bare essentials and embrace your inner goth, you may have a much better album on your hands next time around.

Hellish Grave – Hell No Longer Waits (Helldprod) (May 31)

Brazilian blackthrash.  Alright! Right?

…well, no.  See, we’re not talking the expected early Sepultura/Vulcano/Sarcofago/Incubus/Holocausto sort of thing, but more of a modern iteration vaguely akin to more recent Desaster or the sort of USBM Hells Headbangers seems to specialize in uncovering.

What saves ’em from mediocrity amidst an ever growing scene of bands of equal and better style and status is that this sub-workaday sound (which awkwardly pulls in a bit of black/death tonality on “in nominae Draculae”) is blessed with some interesting (if perhaps ill fitting) Iron Maiden dual harmony leads and surprisingly decent solos.

Make sure you pick up the version with “soldiers of hell” on it…because that’s far and away the best track on the album, zero comparisons to be had.

PYTHON – Astrological Warfare (AJNA: / AnnapurnA) (June 6)

Interesting. Once in a while, those silly promo writeups turn out to be dead on instead of the far more typical way off the mark ballyhoo. 

Why mention this here, you ask? Because they mention both Paul Chain and The Black…and while the meh factor of what’s on display points far more to the latter than the generally excellent former, you can certainly catch the funereal whiff of classic Italian doom about this one.

Of course, that’s also the problem…those who know Mario DiDonato’s body of work with Requiem and The Black should also know that while he does have his moments…a lot of it is, at best, middling.

Chain, who wrote or cowrote almost all of Death SS’ best material, milked for several albums after he’d left the fold (shades of Dave Mustaine and Metallica!) was a far more solid character, with only his “speed/thrash” experiments like Ash and a few aimless studio collage pieces ever falling below the tier of “pretty damn awesome” throughout his Violet Theatre and up till around 1990 under his own name (with the stoner doom of Alkahest and his collaborations with St. Vitus and Cathedral’s frontmen on that and Unreleased vol. 2 being brief returns to form thereafter).

Python, while borrowing some of Chain’s sonic template (and certainly a lot of his penchant for aimless experimentation), apprehends absolutely nothing of what makes his work so eminently listenable, and winds up coming off more akin to DiDonato, minus the lead guitar focus that so defines his work.

So bottom line, yeah, it’s pretty damn familiar…and those touchpoints, vetted out to reviewers for reference, were surprisingly spot on.

But is it any good?

(long pause, sighs)

…no, not really. I can’t say this worked at all, though I certainly appreciate both of the men they’re trying to emulate here.

Order 1968 – Tears in the Snow (AnnapurnA) (May 17)

hmm…not sure how to feel about this one.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about the promo picture and what it could suggest…and was a bit more concerned on seeing a few track titles here. Suggestive terminology and imagery, mind…nothing ever stated outright. As such, I leave any further investigation to the prospective listener.

So, yeah, this is a reissue of an obscure early iteration of a project called Runes Order out of Italy. I’m given to understand they do dark ambient, but this earlier one man project is more industrial sound collage along the lines of what Jim Thirwell used to do under various monikers.

Glasses clicking and tinkling, long electronic drones, repetitive cut and paste samples that form a faux-beat…and occasionally an almost Nitzer Ebblike (very) basic keyboard phrase, just messed with on varispeed (“a minute in the wind”, for example). It’s all pretty pointless.

Put all of that together, and yeah, it’s pretty easy to turn your back and just walk away from this one, before it explodes or something.

Some things are better left untouched.

VORTEX OF END – Ardens Fvror (Osmose Productions) (May 31)

French black/death.

Interestingly, nothing about this says France…it’s more akin to more recent Behemoth or the Watain school of Swe-black/death, all straightforward aggression and bombast, and little of the experimentalism, atonality or avant-garde business that so defines Gallic black metal (at least that falling outside of the classic “black circle” tape traders of Les Legions Noires)

Didn’t do much for me, but then I tend to be at the very least quite tired of this overplayed subgenre post-Gaahl and the Wild Hunt…

…if not groaning and rolling the eyes whenever yet another of these rolls down the review pike.

TOTENGOTT – The Abyss (Xtreem Music) (April 16)

Spanish act, despite the moniker.

If you’re going by “ceremony II”, they play death metal.

But if you’re going by “the spell”, it’s more of a sludge/doom affair…which brings throaty keyboard samples ala the odd orchestral bits in To Mega Therion era Celtic Frost to bear in “doppleganger II” (there is no “doppleganger I”, mind.)

Finally, opener “ceremony I” is more of a slow, dreamy instrumental in a vague post-metal vein…until the band sort of joins in to make it all sludgy and doom-slow towards the end.

…so I guess, one track aside, these guys are working a Conan meets Electric Wizard with at least funeral doom tempos, if not stylistic flourishes.

It’s not bad at all…in fact, I kinda liked it for what it was.

TEMPLE KOLUDRA  – Seven! Sirens! To A Lost Archetype (Transcending Obscurity Records) (June 14)

German black/death act with affectations towards Indian gods. Think Nile gone Hindi.

Unfortunately, that comes across more in the lyrics and track titles than it ever does in the music, which is reasonably straightforward and quite aggressive, with a bit too much ringing open chord business and hints of atonality for my taste.

If this was going full on sitar and tabla Indian crossover metal? You know we’d be all over this one.

As is?

meh.

Violet Cold – kOsmik (Avantgarde Music)

uh-huh.

So, “ai(r)” is a rendition of Bach’s “air on a G string” which is so damn mellow and light, you’d think it came off Narada Records. Then “Contact” goes all Enya, with just a bit of shoegazey guitar thrown in for good measure.

“Black sun” starts off more promising, with an Inquisition low string bend meets My Bloody Valentine sort of thing going down…until it goes full on black metal and some broad starts screaming like a lunatic. That’s right, I said “broad”. It’s so bad, it brings out the Sinatra in me.

And worse? There we stay for the next track or two, only coming up for a more listenable atmospheric post-black metal/shoegazeish thing with femme-fronted* death metallish belch vox on “space funeral” (which is kind of iffy, but gets better in the second half) and “ultraviolet” (which is pretty good, actually). The title track isn’t too far off the mark either.

So what are we to make of this one? On the average, more tracks lean towards at least listenable, if not passably decent…but there are a few ripoff and abject dogshit tracks that really skew the average here.

The less vox you hear, the better it is. The Enya vocals seem out of place and overly light, but nothing wrong with ’em…the death belches are goofy, but hey, you can try to ignore ’em.

It’s that screamy shit that really leaves me giving these guys the stink eye.

See if you can buy by the song. Because drop that track and the worthless new age take on Bach? Maybe it’s not that bad a release.

* Best part? This appears to be a one man bedroom band! What the fuck?!?

(sighs)

…whatever…

…next?

Vigilance  – Enter the Endless Abyss (Dying Victims Productions) (April 23)

Oddly askew, almost “occult rock”-ish take on NWOBHM, out of Slovenia. Reminds of a stiffer, more boring In Solitude or Portrait in that respect.

There are some moments here that suggest an almost US power metal vibe, but again, it’s too stiff, the guitars too mids heavy and thin…and the vox too blackthrash gargle-shouted. You have to be in a certain mood not to laugh at ’em and flip the channel, disc or what have you right away.

That noted, there is enough of that patented heavy metal gallop without being overly slavish to the Maiden template, the bassist really gets front and center and does a lot of walking on several tracks, and the solos and drumming are pretty decent…so it’s more a case of close enough to be interesting than pure failure to recapture the sound they’re so clearly striving to replicate.

Take it as more of an intellectual appreciation and nod of respect for the musicianship than any sort of affection for the music they’re actually laying down.

I could see a lot of folks thinking this was great, rather than a shrug of the shoulders and murmur of assent that yeah, they aren’t too terrible before moving on to check out a better band on another stage.

Azaghal – Of Beasts And Vultures (Moribund Records) (April 26)

Two years back, Moribund reissued this Finnish act’s second album, Helvetin Yhdeksän Piiriä (Nine Circles of Hell), and as we said when we covered that earlier effort:

“promo materials claim this one was fundamental in establishing the Finnish sound, though I’m not really hearing it – the strong sense of melodicism, the traditional feel, it’s just not there.”

Nothing has changed on this, a reissued version of their third album.  Still sounds like it’s been recorded on the wrong side of a blender, still zero melodicism or anthemic feel, it’s just…meh.

Hell, even the Bathory cover doesn’t sound right, much less improve or provide a unique take on the original…it just sounds like they had no idea how to play the song (check out all the weird extra tone added chords they use…makes a black metal classic sound like complete crap!)

Yeah, sorry, I have no idea what the big deal is supposed to be here. There are so much better Finnish acts out there, both longstanding and of surprisingly recent vintage, to waste any more time on this.

Wyrd – Vargtimmen Pt. 1 (Moribund Records) (April 26)

Another Moribund reissue, this time of a more pagan/Viking metal act.  Still hails from Finland, actually contains members of the aforementioned Azaghal…but despite a similarly abysmal production, delivering something of far more worth.

Unfortunately for them, one of said transplanted members is the vocalist, so it’s all the same lo-fi sub-Horna snarly-croaks you know and…er…yeah, whatever…and the same hissy, thin and blender-ified production.

Which is weird, because like Hades before them…they’re making music that demands (and in fact, almost inevitably is marked by) crystalline studio recording and bombast. So why the nasty overly troo kvlt Speak N’ Spell down the street sonic palette? Wouldn’t you want to emphasize the grandeur, the little acoustic folk interludes and instrumental augmentation, the keyboard bits…you know, just make this sound bold and powerful?

Well, this is a reissue (and remaster,) if you can believe that!) of their third album, with the rest of the first four albums to trickle out through the year…we’ll see how the others sound by comparison. But this one, you have to have some affection for early Hades and be used to rejiggering your stereo settings to accomodate for piss poor, uber-thin hissy production to appreciate.

And that’s too bad, because the music itself, much like early Hades?

It’s pretty damn good stuff.

VARGRAV – Reign in Supreme Darkness (CD, LP) (Werewolf) (April 26)

We’d covered this Finnish symphonic black metal act’s Netherstormfew years back, and this is their followup.

More Emperor nonsense…early Dimmu is also mentioned in the promo materials. I already see a bunch of your eyes flashing with excitement.

Personally, those two bands being referenced equals “STAY THE FUCK AWAY” in flashing red neon letters.

Never got what the big deal was, always despised both, am positively flabbergasted at the neverending appeal of propaganda, self perpetuated or not, among certain scenes, where the utterly valueless is touted as some pinnacle of achievement and worth.

Or if you prefer, I’ll let that crackhead Flavor see you out.

“Don’t believe the hype!”

…next?

FÖRGJORD – Ilmestykset (CD) (Werewolf) (April 19)

We’d covered these Finns’ Uhrippu a few years back, and much appreciated their raw but very typically Finnish sound, all melodic lead lines and weird anthemic quality beneath all the sinister tremelo riffing and throat ripping snarl vox.

If anything, Ilmestykset may have taken that quality and jacked the dial up a few notches. For all its apparent raw troo kvltishness, this one’s packed to the gills with some surprisingly motivating fist pumpers…which is a really bizarre thing to say when it comes to “serious” black metal of the more or less orthodox type.

And yet…so it is.

Raise the horns even higher…if you can take the nasty production and incredibly raw vox, there’s a thing of beauty buried beneath.

Verwüstung – Gospel ov Fury (Handful of Hate) (May 1)

Belarus based blackthrash with balls.

In fact, this is more Bay Area thrash than blackthrash, which in its heyday tended to draw inspiration more from Slayer, Venom and Motorhead (arguably with Bathory as a final skewing element)…and ever since, from the Teutonic and South American scenes of those days, hence the same influences, just trickled down through another generation or two of bands with their own stylistic quirks and imagery.

Instead, you get riffs that are practically Exodus, Xentrix (or perhaps the Metallica they were inspired by), Vio-Lence, Forbidden, etc.

The only real stinkers here are when they fall off the wagon and go full on black metal, with aimless tremelo drones and blastbeats (“baaltzelmoth”, “dissolution”)…and even the former track finally mutates at least into something Grotesquelike, so it’s not a total loss.

But yeah…this ain’t your typical copy paste blackthrash act, by a long shot.

When they go for the gusto and unashamedly draw from the classic Bay Area scene? These guys are pretty damn awesome, all (for what they’re aiming for) inappropriate snarly vox aside.

Ossuaire – Premiers Chants (Sepulchral Productions) (April 26)

Surprisingly solid old school black metal, very much nipping at the heels of their obvious schoolmasters Gorgoroth.

The same relative crisp (for black metal) production, the same aggressive tremelo riffing with prominent melodic lead lines, the same mournful feel…all present, accounted for and very, very obvious.

There’s no faulting their choice of who to swipe from wholesale…er, pay homage to here, and the end result is a very strong album, let down only by its sheer relentlessness – the pointless ambient/spoken word bit “exhortation” aside, there isn’t a midtempo or slowed down moment to be found here.

Really good stuff, put ’em right up at the top of your listening list.

Sacrilegia – The Triclavian Advent (Invictus Productions) (April 12)

Dublin, Ireland…hardly what you’d consider a hotbed of black metal, or even blackthrash. And yet, here we have an act that skirts between the lines of both.

I’m calling this one more straight up black metal. It’s aggressive and raw, sure, but so are Grotesque and that band’s slightly more blackened death metal heir Liers in Wait. And what are Aura Noir, ultimately?

So what does all that sum up to? Simply this: while there are elements of death and other underground “extreme” genres at play herein, this is not exactly what you think of when someone says “blackthrash”…more like an earlier, less bastardized form of black metal, with a few tracks that have actual riffs (and there’s where the thrash comes into play at last).

If you like ’em noisy, busy and raw (on both vocals and production) and don’t mind some thrash and death metal mixed in with your black metal? This could well fill the bill.

DEVOID OF THOUGHT – Cosmic Apoptosis (Caligari Records) (April 19)

“Underground” black/death from Italy. Thankfully, less cavernous of a slap echo on the vox than usual. Hell, guitars are even right up front!

Closer “stargrave” is the clear winner here…opener “necronaut” just sucks, with “tomb marauder’s horde” falling somewhere between the two extremes.

Get it? “Extremes”?

…yeah, yeah, I know. Geez, try to inject a laugh every now and again…

Nothing too exciting, but has more promise than you’ll generally hear with this tiny, stagnant subgenre of the black metal scene.

ÓREIÐA – Óreiða (Harvest Of Death) (April 20)

These purveyors of cut rate frozen potatoes (“Ore-Ida…it’s al-right-a!”) from the land of Bjork were covered twice before, first for their Demo I and then for the split with Holocausto em Chamasand despite cracks made in the Belated Black Metal Based Addendum about Icelandic black metal per se, always rather liked these folks.

As with prior reviewables, what makes their efforts work is a hypnotic, trancelike repetitive quality, somewhat akin to Burzum, but as channeled through Kraftwerk or Circle…and yet never departing from the black metal sonic template in the slightest. Better yet? No crappy vocals to mar the experience.

This one’s just as solid as the demo and their track on the split, if not moreso…and production, for all its raw tone, seems…well, maybe just a little improved to boot.

I know, I know…still sounds like someone’s making a smoothie or some shit…

As before…raise the horns in salute.

VOËMMR – O ovnh intot adr mordrb (Harvest Of Death) (April 20)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Okay…okay (puts hand up to stop any questions, doubled over with laughter and wiping away tears thereof)

…so, do you remember Abruptum?

You know, the little dead guy and his pal from Marduk, they used to detune the guitar so far the strings were flopping all around the neck?  And all the while, the little guy screamed, gargled and pretended he was being “tortured” (more like his favorite Hellhammer track was “triumph of death”, and his big goal was to expand it to multi-album length…)? Hilariously bad, pointless shit, right?

Well, guess what? (starts tearing up with laughter again) They’ve found themselves a (PFFT!!) tribute band BWA-HA-HA!!!!

Seriously. That’s all this is.

Most “It n’ Evil”like track: “carpatr tzaeb”…but they’re all like that, just slightly more propulsive on the out of tune junk shop guitars. Did I mention that? Yeah.

I can’t even give this one more of a slag, it’s too hilariously inept and wrongheaded.

So bad, it’s almost good…the ultimate camp party album of black metal, to be sure!

Portugal, you’ve done it again…what a scene they have, eh?

NEXT?!?

 

Bloodsoaked Necrovoid – The Apocryphal Paths Of The Ancient 8th Vitriolic Transcendence CD (Blood Harvest / Caligari) (March 29)

More of this cheesy “underground” black/death schmutters, awash in reverb to the point where it sounds like it was recorded in a cave.

These Costa Ricans at least manage to keep things more akin to a sloppy doom tempo, almost halving the reverb schtick by comparison to the usual and leaning more particularly “death” than “black” for a change…but you’d still never mistake it for any of the leading lights of the death metal scene, to whom it bears zero comparison whatsoever.

This is a compilation of two demos, the first sounds much better and more (cough) well produced (grading on a serious curve, here, folks…), but it’s the same sound throughout.

Again, being more doomy and more inassailably of the death than blackened persuasion, I really didn’t mind this for its type. Hell, I’m even leaving it on the iPod for a bit, it’s got atmosphere and is pretty relaxing.

Here you go: the new leading lights of the “underground black/death” scene!

…for whatever that’s worth.

Folian – Ache Pillars (Apneic Void Sounds) (March 22)

Mostly aimless and ambient, but with some Atari Teenage Riot drum machine on crack nonsense appearing at points (“ghost in the flesh”).

Chimes give way to guitar feedback that links one track to the next…it’s pretty much nonexistent, except as vaguely unpleasant background noise.

The only actual track of music here is the Sonic Youthlike repetitive layered clean guitars and Cynic-esque airy whispered vocals of “where all this dust comes from”…which actually gives up trying to be actual music at around the 7 minute mark, devolving back into the sort of aimless noise bullshit the other three tracks are comprised of in their entirety.

You know, for 6 minutes 50 seconds or thereabouts, you had me thinking there was a good song in there…too bad about the rest of it.

All of it.

You know what to do with this coaster.

…next?

Vananidr – S/T (Purity Through Fire) (April 4)

Wow, nice band history, there.

Suffice to say that this guy’s been trying to get things rolling on and off since ’99, under multiple band names and with plenty of folks hopping aboard only to jump off at the first available stop.

Was it his breath?

Regardless of whatever issues of personal hygiene may have kept bandmates at a premium, the guy’s finally pulled something together here, and it’s…fair.

Look, it’s well produced, those drums sound pretty damn sweet here. And it’s more often midtempo and trying to be dramatic than not…a definite plus. Problem is? No hooks. Not enough melody. No atmosphere.

Hey, I appreciate a nice crisp drum sound, particularly when its so front and center as it is here. But when I’m pondering how to just get a copy of the drum track so the rest of this can be tossed, that’s kind of sad for so many decades (!) of effort to get this together…and the guy we’ve been talking about? Isn’t even the drummer!

Yeah, this needs to be reissued as drums only…maybe have another enterprising act record their own album using that drum track instead.

Great organ piece as a closer, though.

NIGHNACHT – Christophila (7″ EP) (Hells Headbangers)

Nunslaughter frontman’s new project. Sadly…it ain’t exactly Nunslaughter.

Nasty gargle-snarl vox that bring Killjoy of Necrophagia to mind are about the best thing to recommend here…but the band behind ’em…I guess the best way to describe this is “uninspired”.

If you’re just looking for another sinister sounding USBM platter to fill your shelves or are a hardcore fan of “Don of the Dead’s” vocal style, then yeah, sure…otherwise, an easy pass.

DEIPHAGO – I, The Devil (CD, LP, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (April 30)

oh, yay, the guys behind the split with Ritual Combat and Into the Eye of Satanreturn with yet another slab of overly salty Filipino noise…er, black metal spectrum nonsense.

Seriously…is this black/death? Because I’m not hearing the death metal…certainly no thrash here…hell, lyrics aside, it’s barely black metal.

What it is is one badly detuned instrument (the bass, possibly?) clashing with others that seem to be bashing away at the same few detuned from each other “chords” of random notes. On repeat. For eight tracks.

It’s like a child banging away on one of those My First Instrument jobs at a construction site, while jackhammers and bulldozers are in use.  The only rhythms come from that industrial worksite-style clanging, good luck finding a melody or harmony (or even any real structure) herein.

I have no idea what they’re trying to accomplish here, but it’s pretty bad when the closest to actual musicianship comes from a blastbeat inclined drummer.

I’m almost afraid to toss this one in the Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards…it’ll probably flare up so badly, we’ll wind up with a statewide forest fire!

Dispose of this POS any way you wish, I’m backing away from it.  Slowly. Who knows, it’s toxic enough to explode or some shit.

…next?

EMBALMER – Embalmed Alive (CD) (Hells Headbangers) (April 26)

The grindcore act behind There Was Blood Everywhereand Emanations from the Crypt have decided, for no apparent reason whatsoever, to record a “live” album…that isn’t a live album at all.

That’s right, it’s yet another “live in studio” job (the second covered this month, in fact). Yeah, OK. You could at least get a small crowd of loons in studio with you like Live Undead, ya know…

…otherwise, it’s kind of pointless.

FUNERAL STORM – Arcane Mysteries (CD, LP) (Hells Headbangers) (May 31)

Hey, this is nice…wasn’t expecting that! 

So this is a Greek black metal act who quite correctly draws inspiration from their country’s foremost band in the genre, namely early Rotting Christ. And they’ve got a really good handle on it, too.

Tag in an active, clearly audible bass and that patented retro heavy metal proper, and with plenty of melodicism thing the Tolis brothers did so well, and you’ve got an easy winner.

So close to template, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d unearthed a long lost Rotting Christ album.

Raise the horns high in salute.

Ya’suo!

Mutilate – Contagium LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (June 7)

You know I’m subconsciously already in mock mode when I’m dancing along to the silly, uber-simplistic singsongy riffs.

And that’s exactly what I caught myself doing within seconds of “contagium”, the first track we heard from this, the band behind Tormentium (remember them? “Do not entry into the false?”  Yeah, them.)

Now, this is pretty much the same deal as last time around. If you dig some of the really basic vintage death metal…and I’m talking, like, Acheron here…then yeah, this will ring very much the same bells.

As such, yeah, I was certainly OK with this. But be warned, while it is believably retro sounding, it’s also so simplistic as to come off childish.

And that’s by comparison to Goatlord and Acheron.

Take it from there.

Pa Vesh En – Cryptic Rites of Necromancy 7″ EP (Iron Bonehead) (May 3)

The same (unintentional) comedy act behind A Ghost and the split with Temple Moonand Church of Bones is back for yet another scolding.

Yodel-howl girly shrieks over atonal clashes of noise from various instruments all at once…you have to hear “raised from the grave” for a few seconds (won’t put you through more than that, this ain’t Gitmo…) to understand just how unutterably, insalubriously bad this crap is…

and production? What production? Teenagers record rehearsal demos in their garage that sound ten times better than this…

troo kvlt, my ass!

Right to the Pile of Dead Bards with ye, ya scurvy bastard!

And don’t come back!

…nice flare up, there. Plenty of pretty sparks, too. Did you like that one? Yeah, it looked pretty good, exploding on contact with the flames…

NEXT?!?

Infernal Conjuration – Infernale Metallum Mortis LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (June 7)

Noisy Mexican blackened death metal.

Sloppy double bass driven drums (going so fast, the footwork keeps slipping out of time…check out “ultimatum”), noisy, busy riffs…but with Rick Rozz-like solos and vox that fall somewhere between Jeff Becerra and David Vincent.

As you might expect, it’s the latter two elements that save these guys, making them at least listenable despite their flaws otherwise, even comfortably familiar.

They could use some serious tightening up, no question. But for Mexican ostensible death metal? They weren’t half bad…you’ve heard much, much worse from that scene.

Calyx – Vientos Arcaicos LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (May 17)

Spanish act. Vox are attempting to be those of Colombia’s Witchtrap, but aren’t as solid and tend to switch voices from raw and snarly to throaty belches to almost spoken word at points.

The band is pretty tight, the production’s good…it just never grabbed me in any way. It’s like they were going through the motions or something…it sounds OK on the surface, but it’ll bore the shit out of you nonetheless, and you won’t really understand why.

well, whatever.

You have the objective points, didn’t work, end of story.

Suffering Hour – Dwell CD/12″ MLP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (April 5)

Black/death out of Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
One 18 minute track “with art etching on side B”.

They love to throw in this atonal buzzing bee riff (it’s a lead line with a bend and quaver…sounds even more absurd than it looks on paper) and a lot of random ringing open tones amidst all the more typical black/death riffing. Vox lean pretty heavily death belch.

No idea what they’re shooting for with this sound, but nah.

Next?

Pestilent Death – Chapters of Depravity CD/LP/TAPE (Blood Harvest) (May 24)

L.A. act, if you can believe that. Because this is some seriously nasty, detuned, “underground” death metal that sounds like a retarded cross between Incantation, Autopsy and, say, Rottrevore.

It sounds “evil”, it’s certainly got the serial killer fetish going on (“exhumation of festering cadavers” has this whole faux-radio news
report about the discovery of Ed Gein’s victims as an intro), and it’s all low and slow and tuned way down low, with Craig Pillardesque vocals.

Listenable for what it is, but there are so many other bands who’ve done or are doing this schtick…what makes this one special?

Nothing.

If you dig the style and want some more, though…you’re safe to dig right in.

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