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You know, when we finally got around to working on these smaller review shells, it was with the intention of getting ’em out ad hoc, whenever the mood strikes and they were ready.

But since we’ve been making some serious progress over the last week or two for various reasons, a few of these have been split in half.  Maybe the original estimates were leaving things a tad too lengthy, or hell, maybe it’s just nice to blast ’em off on a Friday, rather than holding on for a few more days.  Why not? Published is published, if this much is ready, let ‘er rip.  We’ll catch the rest on the flip side, as they used to say.

What is therefore not necessarily accounted for is quality.

Believe it or not, there has always been a deliberate structure in the large monthly Roundups, building from bigger budget, longstanding “famous” names and their respective labels (which further tend to be more mainstream oriented, with traditional metal, AOR and prog leanings) through the more midrange labels and slightly deeper genres like gothic, punk and the more introspective end of “dark metal” (so to speak).  The indie stuff falls somewhere around here as well, as does the electronic oriented material.  Finally we dive headlong into the deepest crevasses of all things “extreme”, and ride that helltrain straight through to close.

It just makes sense, putting the more famous and recognizable stuff, which is also the “safer” and more easy to digest end of the spectrum first, for the more casual web surfer to run across…while the deeper stuff is left to those who’re there to ride this through, wherever it may take us.

But with these more off the cuff, spontaneous breaks in intended review shells…occasionally you wind up kicking things off with material that may not be entirely up to snuff.

Consider yourselves warned.  Yeah, there may be a few brighter lights than the rest, but brace yourselves and fasten your safety belts.

This one ain’t exactly pretty.

Arkhaaik – *d?g??m?to´s LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (July 5)

Oy. Don’t call the dog or speak of the devil, because they’ll come.

Remember our first installment of this Extreme Metal Roundup, where we mentioned how one or two bands “at least weren’t ‘underground black/death'”?

So here we have an overly detuned, sorta doomy but without any vibe or atmosphere bit of lumbering nonsense, suffused in reverb and slap echo with bottom of the bowels belch noises that occasionally turn into pained gargle-screams.

Occasionally in the course of these 10-15 minute tracks, they actually gather a bit of awkward steam and trundle along like an old fat lady trying to waddle her way to the vintage 80’s Ford Taurus after another early bird special at the all you can eat buffet.

And that part, as ridiculous as it is, is exactly what saves these guys from consignment to final oblivion…because a bit of variation saves them from the usual fate of these sordid “underground” affairs.

Yes, Virginia, as sad and sorry as it sounds, this is what counts as comparatively really interesting of its type.

Whether that means anyone should waste their time actually giving it a listen or not is wholly on their own respective heads.

  

Vomit Angel – Imprint of Extinction LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (July 19)

We’d covered this duo’s Sadomatic Evil a few years back, and enjoyed its sinister sloppiness, which you can still hear here on all too rare and occasional tracks like “vomit angel”.

Hell, beyond the catchy if lyrically gruesome “suprprise”, that may be the only track that sounds enjoyably evil here…

Unfortunately, this time around they seem to have opted for a cross between straight up grindcore with bottom of the bowels belch vox…

…and worse, cheap and juvenile jokes, by which we mean everything from hearing them fake-throw up or taking a dump in studio, which they devote a track apiece to, mind, to a half-mumbled, half belch-growled version of beer hall staple “Im Himmel Gibst Kein Bier” (or for more domestic Teutons, “in heaven there is no beer…so that’s why we drink it here!”)

Yeah, I don’t know what the story is here, but whatever magic we were hearing on the last album is almost entirely missing here.

At least “a brutal meeting” has a sinister riff, and we’ve got “vomit angel” and “surprise” to remember what they used to be shooting for…but that ain’t much to hang your hat on.

Cult of Extinction – Ritual in the Absolute Absence of Light LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (July 19)

One man bedroom black…er, “war metal”.

As if the half-assed attempt at coming off like some ersatz Conqueror/Revenge weren’t embarassing enough, he goes full on “underground black/death” with the slap echo vocals (“anti monad black hole bomb”) besides.

And this is coming from someone who appreciates a lot of this rather simplistic and “brutal” subgenre.

So, yeah. Trust me on this one. It sucks, really hard.

…next?

 

Celestial Grave – Secular Flesh LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (July 5)

We’d covered these Finns’ Burial Ground Trance a few years back, and really dug their grimly melodic old school approach to black metal.

Here they get a shot at…well, it’s only 4 tracks, that’s an EP. Maybe due to the length of ’em (2 run 6m, one just over 8, and the best track “calamitous love” closes this out at 10 1/2 glorious minutes of darkness), they’re marketing this as if it were an album proper.  Whatever.

The thing about Secular Flesh as compared to Burial Ground Trance (or what we got out of it at the time, anyway) is that here, there’s one strong track (aforementioned), two at best middling to almost acceptable ones (“lamentation”, the title cut)…and one that kinda sucks (“gasping from lips of night”).

Well, the one track certainly keeps up the promise shown last time around…but 3 years, and the best they could come up with beyond that are these 3 rather questionable blasts of gloom?

I don’t know. Personally, I’d rather they’d taken another year or two and come back with a followup worthy of what we’d heard last time around.

This sure isn’t it.

Valaraukar – Demonian Abyssal Visions LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (June 21)

You know, something about the clipped but slightly lilting vocal tones on “conquering the void” suggested a bit of a Scots brogue…

So yeah, despite the rather Watain wannabe cover art, this one’s sort of blackthrash, Euro style. There’s nothing of the seemingly ubiquitous Hells Headbangers US school or South American about their sound, it’s of an older, more deliberate template.

In fact, at times, it almost feels more first wave black metal than it ever does more modern and…well, derivative derivations thereof…just without the sort of quirky, evil flair that bands like Mortuary Drape, Tormentor, Bulldozer and suchlike brought to the table.

Essentially, picture Grotesque and Necrophobic having a sit down, remove a lot of the quirkiness and tech leanings, then straighten out the rhythms so they come off a bit more early Tsjuder or Urgehal. Now drop the usual black metal snarl vox and give ’em a more first wave/thrashlike clean but nasty vocal awash in reverb, somewhat akin to Tom G. Warrior and Cronos, but with a bit of Sean Killian of Vio-Lence and Dave King from Flogging Molly to his vocal tones.

Is it anything jaw dropping, a staggeringly wonderful or unique slant on a genre that’s really been degenerating under the clueless atonal and genre-mixing experimentation younger acts adopt in some misguided attempt to stand out from the orthodoxy? Not really.

But is it a whole lot better than I expected from that cover, and bearing an interesting approach to vocals for the genre of late, to boot?

Damn straight.

Scythe Lore – Through the Mausoleums of Man 12″ MLP/MCD (Iron Bonehead) (June 21)

Straight up Entombed worship, and Left Hand Path era at that.

You know the drill: HM-2 “buzzsaw guitars”, a decidedly punkified approach to death metal, and a whole lot of atmosphere.

The only switch is that our mysterious frontman (they appear to be hiding their identities at this point, not even offering the black metal pseudo for reference) pushes his Lars Golan Petrov impersonation a bit more towards Ola Lindgren than you may expect, with a lot of “o” sounds and extra reverb on the mic throughout.

It works, it’s vintage Sunlight Studios-style Swedeath…just out of Germany, and almost 30 years later.

About the only thing that breaks the illusion is the sadly relentless blastbeat drumming that mars what otherwise could easily have fooled a fan of acts like Nihilist/Entombed, Carnage, Unleashed, Grave, Nirvana 2000, etc. etc. that this was another long lost act, finally unearthed from the dustbin of history.

If overreliance on a bad drum technique is the worst we can throw at ’em, you know it’s not bad at’all…

 

Abhor (Italy) / Abysmal Grief – Legione Occulta / Ministerium Diaboli split 12″ MLP (Iron Bonehead) (August 2)

We’d covered these rather serious sounding and sinister first wave-style Italian black metallers twice before, for Rituale Stramonium and Occulta Religio, and were quite impressed by both (the first resided on the personal iPod for years, I believe until or beyond the release of the latter album, in fact).

Here they once again blow the doors off of the Vatican with an unholy sulfurous stench, delivering some of the most genuinely “evil” sounding music you’re likely to hear…

…particularly when all this church organ, grim riffing and wet, doglike snarling (which sounds like the voice of devils more than just about any black metal frontman you can think of) is paired with what sounds like at least a cinematic recreation (I’m betting it’s from actual recorded footage rather than staged playacting, but let’s just cover our bets here) of an actual exorcism on the chilling “legione occulta”.

Unholy fuck, this is some dangerous sounding shit, and you know we don’t give many credit for that particular end of the black metal image.

Abysmal Grief, we’d covered previously for their Mors Eleison to mixed result, though the title track was admittedly pretty killer. The pairing makes some sense given their shared Italian heritage and both acts’ propensity towards the decidedly sinister…but when the track doesn’t even fucking start until 8 and a half minutes in to a 13 minute track, yeah, there’s a problem.

Chop over 8 minutes of wasted space off of this track, and yeah, it’s not bad, and reminds very much of early Death SS and Paul Chain.  As is?  It’s pretty damn weak, and you have to wonder why it’s even on this.

Definitely well worth checking out, if only to scare the shit out of the uninitiated (try blasting THIS in public!)…but be prepared to forward up more than 2/3 of the length of Abysmal Grief’s head scratching offering every time you give it a spin.

Better yet, do your own edit, and consign all that shit to the rubbish bin where it belongs.

The Rite – The Brocken Fires 12″ MLP/MCD (Iron Bonehead) (August 2)

OK, remember last week in part 1, where we talked Denial of God? Questionable act, interesting choice in covers…one of which was fucking amazing not only in terms of reimagining and personalization of the original…but further, in that the artist and track were chosen in the first place.

And so here we are with the frontman of said act, working a side project that…by comparision to The Shapeless Mass, at least, should perhaps become his main gig.

The choice taste in covers is present and accounted for, with a dead on take on Goatlord’s “acid orgy” (always one of my faves, from a band that only recently is gaining some degree of the acclaim it deserved, posthumous events aside).

But even when they go to the originals…the same crusty approach to blackened doom prevails, with “a pact with hell” and the title cut both lumbering along at a likeably deliberate tempo, with “Ustumallagam”s sub-Ace Still gargle-snarls lending the appropriate sinister gravitas and feel.

Only closer “heed the devil’s call” falls a bit flat, being too slow both in tempo and build to actually get anywhere…but it’s still within the realm of acceptability, and does actually manage to finally get to a point at about the halfway mark (circa 4m in), so it’s hardly a loss.

Yeah, this is so much better. Probably should’ve saved the Exuma cover for this act…and maybe they’d have gotten the Bathory one right.

You know, as in without that overly busy tempo and lack of appropriately funereal feel…something The Rite bears in spades.

Due hails.

Hellvetron – Trident of Tartarean Gateways LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (August 16)

“Path the Old El Patho”, or so I hear Butthead lispingly intoning in response to this rather questionable “underground black/death” duo out of El Paso, Texas.

If all you’re looking for is a vaguely sinister atmosphere with overly detuned guitars and vomit belches, all awash in so much reverb it sounds like they recorded it in a cave, there’s about 1500 shitty “bands” to fill your bill, of which this is yet another in an exceedingly long line of such.

zzzzz

…hmm? wha? You’re still here?

Got so bored, I fell asleep, there.

Didn’t improve this steaming pile of shit any.

WHIZZZ!!!!

phew! Smells like someone ripped a particularly bad one, there.

Must be all the “sulphurous evil” (cough snicker) coming out.

…NEXT?!?

Reign In Blood – Missa Pro Defunctis LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (August 16)

Okay, the band history reads like a gordian knot of incipient collapse and utter chaos, so we’ll spare you most of the apparent background.

Suffice to say the two guitarists are back together after a good 7 years, during which the one who decides to handle “vokills” here exhibited “personality problems” (seriously, this is alluded to right there in the writeup).

Why does any of this matter? Because what you get here is a buzzingly thin, noisy bit of not very well harmonized tremelo riff driven black metal (or perhaps black/death, it’s in that ballpark more than anything you’d ever catch yours truly listening to)…with vocals that sound completely insane.

Check out all the teenaged breaking voice shrieks and howls on “dawn of a dying soul” and tell me this doesn’t come from a guy with some pronounced mental problems. Somebody get this clown to a licensed therapist, stat!

As there’s nothing of value to the instrumental aspect here…that’s not saying a fuck of a lot for this German duo.

Another casual toss into the pile…just with an added wipe or two of the hands after handling, as if ya just picked up a turd and it smeared all over your fingers in the process.

You know the type. “Gross! Sorry I heard that one…where’s a sink, now I need to wash my hands of that!”

Hagzissa – They Ride Along LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (August 23)

Aimless, amateurish take on first wave-style black metal.

They lumber along pacedly on “they ride along on the howling wind”, which appears to be the band’s chosen tempo and achieves what passes for best results here…

…but for the remainder of the album, they unwisely opt to pick up the speed beyond their physical and sonic capabilities, making for some of the most awkward sounding blackened nonsense (are they trying to be “blackened punk”, perhaps, like around the 4 minute mark on the aforementioned track or the 1m mark of “the nightshade wilderness”?) you’re likely to hear.

Combined with the dry, flat recording and mix, which emphasizes cardboard-thin mids heavy guitars, a whole lot of sloppy, trebly noise and signal bleed in both the distortion and cymbal work…and of course, the band’s own thin on the ground, wish we had a second guitar and/or audible bass to fatten this shit up aesthetic, it makes for a decidedly awkward, even somewhat embarrassing effort.

If this is the sort of thing getting passed off as the pinnacle of black metal (or blackthrash, or blackened whatever) these days, you can have it.

If such be the case, then black metal is truly dead at last.

Aima – Tragos LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (June 15)

WHOOF!

Yeah, we’d pretty much summed up Aima on their split with Supremative, so nothing more really needs to be said.

Consider those earlier words the official last word on the matter.

Call me when you change style and approach radically.

And someone give this a toss into the Pyre, will ya?

(shakes head in utter disbelief)

…next?

Holocausto – Diário de Guerra LP/CD (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (July 31)

We’d covered these long-overlooked Brazilan blackthrashers a few times since they got back together, for War Metal Massacre and Guerra Total and here they are with another full length, and like the last two, it’s very much of a piece with their unhinged ’80’s classic Campo do Exterminio.

Like Mystifier, Holocausto trod a different path from more celebrated Brazilian acts like Sepultura, Sarcofago and Vulcano, opting for a more pointedly “evil” sound while simultaneously avoiding the straight up occult proto-black metal trappings of Mystifier (or Chile’s Pentagram, for that matter) in favor of some dark historical focus on our century’s darkest moment (till now), WWII.

With an expectedly raw feel (this ain’t exactly At War, we’re talking here), the band continues to win fans to this day, and having reunited the classic lineup for the last two reunion efforts, here pulls in members of other noted peers of the era like Mutilator, Insulter and yes, even Sarcofago.

Is it any better than War Metal Massacre or Guerra Total?  That’s arguable, though I’m thinking the production here is stronger, and the band perhaps a bit tighter (which becomes surprisingly subjective when talking a band this loose and crazedly unrestrained). I did catch some of that Mutilator guitar tone and riffing during a break about halfway through “guerra total apocalipse”, so it’s there if you dig…

But there’s no question it’s at least as good as the last two releases from this vintage act…and yeah, it may well represent a bit of an improvement to boot.

Raise a cerveza in salute to a band who can so well recapture their teenaged fury, now well into middle age.

Imperator (Poland) – The Time Before Time LP/CD/TAPE (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (June 20)

Punchy, vintage deaththrash reissue.

Apparently this another one that fell between history’s cracks, having been intended for release on Euronymous’ doomed Deathlike Silence label (think about it, these guys could’ve been another Merciless just based on that level of cult exposure), but winding up a vinyl only release during the heyday of CD.

Even so, you can tell this hails from 1991 just by virtue of its sonic approach and, while a bit more muffled than we’ve come to expect from all the excellent remasters out there, its production style as well.

Riffs are crunchy and a tad spastic, with a lot of stop-start business that suggests a prog influence as much as thrash, but with shout-growl vocals, fat guitar tone and comparatively sinister feel that speak far more to the then-dominant death metal scene than it ever does the just fading embers of the thrash scene.

While opener (for us) “the rest is silence” appears to be more demo quality, its more muffled, thickly lo-fi approach seems to suit the band’s sound better than the fatter, relatively cleaner production on the rest of the album…which still sounds like it was recorded under a pillow, particularly in terms of guitar tone.

That aside, this is solid stuff, with some of the feel of Morbid Angel crossed with odder acts like Monstrosity, as filtered through the unquestionable weirdness and “foreignness” endemic to Cold War-era Eastern European acts (who it must be remembered, had to gain their Western musical education rather sparingly and entirely via the black market route before the apparently temporary fall of Communist Russia).

I liked this one quite a bit, actually…fits right in to the personal collection with “things listened to outside of the monthly reviews”.

Always more happy with remastered, bonus track filled reissues and rescues of obscure releases, demo acts, etc. from back in the day than newer acts who spend their efforts trying to ape the vintage sound to varying degrees of success or worse, those who actively rebel against same and veer into realms of comparative unlistenability and atonality (the inappropriate growly and aggro vox in genres outside of death and black metal is a particular pain point)…so yeah, this sort of “previously unheard classic” was nice to be able to cover for a change.

Contaminated (Australia) / Kutabare – Death Sick / Funeral Erection – split 7″ (Blood Harvest) (June 28)

Two Aussie grind acts, thankfully ones with more of a pointedly death metal approach to same (i.e. riffs are thick, heavy and prominent, vox are deep vomit belches rather than those asinine pig noises, it’s not just a wash of blurred noise throughout the entirety of a given track).

Contaminated bring cleaner production and deeper belches, but unquestionably Kutabare mops the floor with ’em, with actual locomotive riffs that fall somewhere between Exodus, Repulsion and Bolt Thrower…but with some slowed down doom moments to keep things balanced throughout.

Guitar tone is much thicker, vox are more in death metal than grindcore in keeping with the approach…and the track leaves yours truly wanting to hear more from these guys.

Neither side of this split is terrible…but Kutabare’s the only one I really look forward to covering on a longer form release.

HATE MANIFESTO – Herald of Triumph (Helter Skelter Productions) (June 24)

Greek blackened death metal act, decided emphasis on the latter.  The first two tracks sound like they were shooting for a paper thin guitar tone, so mids heavy and brittle does it come off. And that’s the “better” produced half!

But that noted, the rawer, more signal bleed-suffused trebly noise of the latter two tracks suits the band much better, with riffs and drums both sounding fatter and clearer beneath all the cloud cover of hiss and scratch overlaying, and vocals sounding…more angry, precise.

If you’re giving a trial listen, by all means go for “perpetual glorification of the eternal symbols of war” or better yet, the EP’s primo track, “the deification of your extinction”. If you like ’em, you wont hate the other two, bizarrely skewed production and all.

Good stuff period, but sounds so much better on the second half.

 

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