ABYSMALIST - Reflections of Horror, Aiwigaz Unoergangaz / Muspellzheimr, Alcoholocaust - Necro Apocalipse Bestial, Amor Fati Productions, Blood Harvest, Bretus - Aion Tetra, Caligari Records, Crown and Throne Ltd., Dying Victims Productions, Galaxy - Lost From the Start, HAMMERHANDS - Model Citizen, hell's headbangers, Helldprod, Hellsingland Underground: A Hundred Years Is Nothing, Invictus Productions, iron bonehead, LEFT HAND PATH, Loud Rage Music, Lunar Apparitions, Lunar Apparitions / Amor Fati, Man Daitorgul - Gosk e' Vidzera Primogenorum - Ye Last Ordeal, Megaton Sword - Niralet, Merge Records, Midnight Prey - Uncertain Times, MITHRIDATIC - Tetanos Mystique, Muspellzheimr - Hyldest til Trolddommens Flamme / Demo Compilation, Muspellzheimr - Raukn, One Hour Hell: Voidwalker, Ordo MCM, Primogenorum - Damned Hearts in the Abyss of Madness, Redd Kross - Beyond The Door, Slutvomit - Copulation of Cloven Hooves, TABLEAU MORT - VEIL OF STIGMA. BOOK I: MARK OF DELUSION, third eye cinema podcast, Vicisolum Productions, Wild Kingdom, XENOKORP
What the hell, another reasonably large batch of reviews in the can. So this one’s in three parts instead of the two we’ve been leaning towards of late…
HAMMERHANDS – Model Citizen (July 19)
Weird mashup of stoner doom riffing, noise, aggro vox and a minimalistically jarring Prong/Clutch approach to stop/start riffing.
Too noisy and abrasive (vocally and otherwise) to settle in with, there’s nonetheless enough of a connection to the stoner sound (and for that matter, Prong’s almost unclassificably modernist one) to keep this from being easily dismissed as tuneless hipster trash for the musically impaired (i.e. all that shit we send to the Pile of Dead Bards on a regular and ongoing basis).
No, there’s something at play here, somewhere beneath all that sandpaper and acid abrasion, that almost works in the same vague sense that Prong always did (at least in small doses and on certain, consequently more played and “popular” tracks).
“That awful sound” really isn’t…though there’s enough deliberately irritating bullshit tossed into the mix to ensure it’s only the most dedicated of explorers who’ll stick around to find any merit in it.
Redd Kross – Beyond The Door (Merge Records) (August 23)
You know, almost every month, there’s one band or album that comes across the virtual desk that surprises yours truly. I mean, not even in terms of how good or bad it may be, how polished or raw the production, how ridiculous the cover, none of that more expected sort of thing…but just the fact that damn, these guys are still kicking around? And out of the blue, here comes their latest into the queue…
For those who don’t know, Redd Kross was poking around since the dawn of the 80’s. If I’m not mistaken, that was their crappy rehearsal space Black Flag was filmed in for the classic (and finally released to DVD/Blu!) Decline of Western Civilization Pt. 1, and hyper-aggro Flag frontman Ron Reyes (who always delivered the most pissed off versions of their classic tracks) actually hailed from an earlier incarnation of Redd Kross(!)
His overrated successor Dez Cadena would also serve time in the Kross, and Kross veteran Greg Heston would go on to both the Circle Jerks (with pre-Reyes Flag frontman Greg Morris(!) and Bad Religion. WHEW!
So all of this incestuousness (mostly revolving around Black Flag, mind!) may leave you thinking Redd Kross is an old school hardcore punk band, right?
SURPRISE! They’re more of an indie/alternative/”college rock” act…or at least have been since their third full length in the mid 80’s. Yeah, it gets weird, like calling The Flaming Lips or Camper Van Beethoven “punk” (something grungesters were strangely wont to do come the early 90’s).
And here we come to exactly what you can expect out of Redd Kross, who by the way, sound as fresh and vibrant as ever, more than 30 years since they made the shift to a poppy, upbeat alterna-rock sound.
Hell, speaking of 90’s alternative, they even grabbed Anna Waronker of That Dog (“gagged and tied” has always remained a favorite, alongside the same album’s “never say never”) and Buzz Osborne from the Melvins for guest bits here.
So if you’re looking for catchy, retro-60’s as filtered through the 90’s alternative rock goodness that’ll melt a good quarter century off your soul, look no further, pilgrim…because this is eerily 1995, in a way that just can’t be rationally explained.
Man Daitõrgul – Gosk e’ Vidzera
Holy crap, is this one good…oh, wait, that’s a Horna cover.
No wonder it sounded so damn Finnish melodic yet sinister…but did the original
have such a busy and prominently mixed bassline? Nice touch, whether in adding a busier line or (as is more probable) mixing it into unmissable audibility…
Yep, it’s our pals from Spain once again, we’d covered their Gulkenha a year and a half back and its vibe of Finnish/Polish/Russian black metal (many bands I was thinking of referencing here were noted at that time, so no point in repeating ourselves.)
That said, something’s definitely changed here – apparently they’ve dropped the heavy keyboards (well, not on the cleverly entitled “II”, but still) and shoved the vox strangely up front to the point where they sound tacked on well after the original mix was finalized.
Seriously…it’s offputting just how loud and in your face the vox are, and how much they drown out the band behind them…
But still, the sound is the same, with all the melodic melancholy and grim, despairing vibe they brought to the table last time around…just with less softening. I guess consider this their Grand Hammering with Gulhenka their Blood. Monsters. Death. and you’ll get the idea…
Once again, their bandcamp is offering this one as a name your own price, so all you cheapskates have no excuse not to give this one a spin.
Weird vocals over and well after band mix aside, you wouldn’t want to pass this one up anyway.
Primogenorum – Ye Last Ordeal (Lunar Apparitions) (July 22)
You know…there’s a strange point in earlier, more experimental first (and very early second) wave black metal where the appeal transcends any musical considerations and enters in to the realm of pure atmosphere and effect/impact on the listener.
Now, to reference something like Manes, Fleurety or even the earliest works of Ancient still gives the wrong idea. A lot of atmosphere, more quirks than you can handle…but still not quite what’s being referred to here.
No, this is more akin to what Abruptum was shooting for with their bizarre sonic experimentalism, back when “It” the midget was supposedly being tortured in studio by a slumming Marduk member under the ingenious moniker of “Evil”.
Never mind it was purely by means of failing to tune up his bass and just letting the strings flop around aimlessly while “It” shrieked away…it was the idea of this, the imagery that played on the darker corners of the listener’s imagination. Who knew what was really going down in those still several years pre-internet days, in some far distant snowy Swedish studio?
And so we come to this Ukranian oddity, run by a guy obviously inspired by some old black market misspelling of Danzig’s second album – presto, here comes “Lucifug”!
Apparently these guys (or perhaps “this guy”, you know black metal…) have been kicking around for a bit, and we covered their Damned Hearts in the Abyss of Madness three years back. Should tell you something about ’em, as I have no memory of this…
So it’s interesting that this one, which we’re told will be the last release from these guys (under this name, together, in this style, you know the drill)…actually works, and quite well, at that.
There’s a palpably sinister feel to every one of the first three tracks here, an eerie, genuinely satanic feel only ruined by the last, ridiculous track of pure hissing noise and weird screeching vocals (yeah, yeah, they’re pretending someone’s getting tortured and worse, you get the idea. Fucking Marilyn Manson did the same bullshit on the end of one of his early video collections, nobody’s impressed.)
Drop that last touch of stupidity, and you have three tracks that are eerie, weird and yes, evil enough in feel to pass for a vintage first (or very early second) wave black metal demo.
Going out on a high point? Yeah, I’d hazard to say that.
Aiwigaz Unðergangaz / Múspellzheimr Split CD (Lunar Apparitions) (July 22)
Danish underground black metal split that very much favors the former act, while leaving the latter entirely in the lurch.
Fatter if lo-fi guitar tone, an almost shoegazey approach to black metal that nevertheless is too raw and jagged to ever be mistaken for Cascadian or post-black…and gargling Hornalike vox.
Muspellzhiemr, by contrast…tinny, overly impacted by too much reverb, noisy, screechy…and zero atmosphere. Just an invitation to grab a few Advil…
Not even a contest. Aiwigaz Unoergangaz takes this one with a one punch knockout.
Múspellzheimr – Hyldest til Trolddommens Flamme / Demo Compilation (Lunar Apparitions / Amor Fati) (August 12)
Strange, therefore, that a band who failed so miserably on the aforementioned split could acquit themselves so admirably at points here. Not consistently, mind…but with the third track on the Raukn demo? The fourth track on the demo for Hyldest Til Trolddomens Flamme? Or the better part of the subsequent Hyldest album itself?
When the band works (i.e. most or all instances noted hereinabove, at least by comparison to the rest of their material on review this month), they can be somewhat majestic in scope, grim and trancelike in their evocation of darkness.
When they fail…damn, do they ever miss the mark!
Sadly, this applies to most of the demo material, certainly the aforementioned split, and most decidedly on:
Múspellzheimr – Raukn (Amor Fati Productions) (September 2)
Ouch, this one must hurt.
Even the track listed as “Raukn demo 3” on the aforemtioned demo compilation that worked so well? Is either not present or reworked with worse production and extra, unnecessary aggression so as to remove anything whatsoever it may have had going for itself.
It’s possible that it’s a case of overrehearsed material – you’ll often find bands that do their best versions on the demo, only to be tired of the material by the time of the official release, adding nonessential bits of business, losing a lot of the rawness and vigor, or just being constrained by the rigors of a demanding producer (“do that part again! Take 18!”)…and we’ll just assume that’s what happened here.
Because there is simply nothing going for this release…which is surprising given that Hyldest worked reasonably well and even a demo track from this album seemed pretty damn strong…only to dissipate into a puff of smoke by the time they sat down to re-record it here.
MITHRIDATIC – Tetanos Mystique (XENOKORP) (September 13)
French “brutal/tech death” act. Apparently the drummer’s joined a band I was going to name by comparison, the same nation’s Agressor, but this is once again more Morbid Angel by way of Suffocation with a touch of Pestilence…which is pretty much what we said last time around.
We covered their He Who Lies Underneath about a year and a half back, and as hinted at already, aren’t hearing much that changes our earlier impressions, either in derivation of sound or final verdict.
The only oddball element that seems new here is frontman “Guitou”‘s propensity to devolve into girlish helium squeals every so often – look no further than the title cut. Maybe he’s trying to salute Martin Van Drunen in some weird way? I dunno.
(shakes head, sighs)
At least it’s beefy sounding in guitar tone and clearly well produced…so it won’t assault your ears in that respect.
Hell, you may even be able to sit through a track or two before yawning, stretching and rolling over to grab another cold one.
Midnight Prey – Uncertain Times (Dying Victims Productions) (September 20)
Total NWOBHM worship out of Germany.
Weird, quavering baritone-leaning vocals, thin, single guitar but driving riffs somewhere between Motorhead and what became known as “speed metal” and a dark undertone that brings the first (and by far, best) Danzig album to mind.
But then there’s riffing that clearly references Iron Maiden as much as Exciter, leads that point to Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions, and more than a touch of Heavy Load to the proceedings…it’s like Ice War or Iron Dogs done right, but with far more of a minor key sensibility informing their sound.
If you’re looking to recapture the sound of heavy rock and metal circa 1981, look no further – I thought this was pretty damn killer, myself.
Galaxy – Lost From the Start (Dying Victims Productions) (September 20)
Here’s an Aussie take on vintage US power metal.
There are obvious parallels to acts like Malice and Omen here, just as there are ties to Exciter and less celebrated members of the scene like Abattoir (which gets pretty pointed on “dreaming out”).
Then they start to come off more than a touch like earlier Voivod (“sons of titan”) and even swipe Ride/Master-era Metallica (“paradise”), possibly with elements of Forbidden and some King Diamond falsetto just to keep listeners off balance.
It’s pretty solid…surprisingly so, in fact…but as good as this is, coming right on the heels of Midnight Prey, it didn’t light my fire as much as you’d think.
Which probably says more about how good that band is than any lack on the part of our boys from Down Under here.
Try it, you’ll be shocked at just how right they get this sound.
Megaton Sword – Niralet (Dying Victims Productions) (September 20)
Interesting that there seems to be a growing movement of international bands (finally) trying to resurrect that classic USPM sound…here’s another, this time out of Switzerland.
These guys align closer to the “epic” vibe of Cirith Ungol, and to a far lesser extent, Manilla Road, Brocas Helm and even (at least in the lisping narration to “realms to conquer”) Manowar.
Well, let’s see…any down sides here? I guess it’s a bit overly bombastic, with a slower feel that suggests a UK more than US influence (hey, maybe “Uzzy Unchained” is trying to be Martin Walkyrier, which explains the prominent lisp?). And yeah, they all come with hilarious monikers like “Chris the Axe” and “Simon the Sorcerer”.
…if you’re waiting for a bigger complaint, better settle in for a bit, it’ll be a long time coming.
To point out that more young bands working stuff like this batch of Dying Victims releases (and if memory serves, the last time we covered a few of ’em as well!) would be much appreciated (not to mention a major improvement over the current scene overall, particularly here in the still rather sorry States) would be such an understatement, it’s barely worth mentioning.
But yeah. It would.
Slutvomit – Copulation of Cloven Hooves (Invictus Productions) (September 6)
Geez, we last covered these Seattle underground black/death types back in 2013…pretty early into our print reviews (as opposed to our podcast interview/career retrospectives), actually.
At the time, we spoke to some comparisons to some classic thrash acts, because this sure as hell wasn’t black metal proper…and yeah, even by comparison to other acts in the black/death subgenre, you can still hear a lot of vintage thrash riffing in there (listen to the solo section on “acolyte of death’s destruction” or the rather Slayeresque opening of “scythe of mass damnation” if you don’t believe it).
In fact…the further we get into this album, the more defensible that earlier approach becomes. While it’s hardly what you’d think of as “blackthrash” (of either the South American, Teutonic or USBM variants), these guys owe an unusual degree of debt to vintage thrash metal…particularly Slayer and the many bands who built rather obviously off their work (early Sacrifice springs immediately to mind, as does Kreator circa Pleasure to Kill…)
So yeah. You walk in expecting black/death, see an old review that went total old school thrash, and figure to straighten the record this time around…only to find that review was dead on after all, and that this is the most classic thrash black metal (or certainly black/death) ever gets.
Throw ’em a set of horns. 6 years is way too long between releases.
ABYSMALIST – Reflections of Horror (Caligari Records) (August 23)
Old school sounding death metal, with a grimier, Autopsy/Baphomet/Incantationlike feel.
Some of this is down to the vox, which are deep and low…but there’s plenty of lo-fi, sludge/crust riffing to bolster those scuzzy belches on the mic appropriately.
As you might expect from guitars this mids-heavy and paper thin in tone, things sound awful sloppy when they pick up the speed…but it works regardless of whether they’re going for straight up death/doom or a stiffly midtempo “fast bit”.
Four songs, only weird ambient intro “the engineer” falls flat on its ass.
I’m calling this an easy win.
Bretus – Aion Tetra (Ordo MCM) (September 27)
Ah, Italian doom. Right away I’m figuring on anything from Paul Chain to Black Hole and Run After To…some really killer stuff, right?
So…why does this sound like vintage Life of Agony, with a touch more “metal” to the riffing?
…yeah, I got through about 7 tracks, and it’s made zero impact thus far.
Is it horrible? Grating to the ear? Offend the ol’ musical sensibilities with its blatant disregard to harmony and/or melody? Ruined by screamo/aggro vox? Not at all.
But does it work?
Alcoholocaust (Portugal) – Necro Apocalipse Bestial (Helldprod) (September 5)
Portuguese blackthrash in the classic style.
I’m hearing closest ties to Witchtrap (Colombia), Bestial Holocaust (Peru) and earlier (i.e. superior, or “with Okkulto on vox” if you prefer) Desaster, but you get the general idea.
Fast, punchy, driving, tremelo riffing in the thrash/speed style with plenty of trills to close out phrases, and simple but (thank the stars!) blastbeat-free drumming, with sinister sounding gargle-snarl vox and that patented 80’s style “evil” feel.
Good stuff – dug this shit back in the day, it’s always great to hear bands working it all these years later.
Particularly when they get it so right.
TABLEAU MORT – VEIL OF STIGMA. BOOK I: MARK OF DELUSION (Loud Rage Music) (June 28)
Quite listenable UK based black metal act who incorporate some church-derived Gregorian chant into the mix.
Could this have been much more atmospheric and eerie, simply by adding church organ and mixing such elements higher in the final product? Of course.
Would I have preferred something that leaned a tad more First Spell Gehenna crossed with a touch of Cradle of Filth’s over the top gothic Decadence? Damn straight.
But is this perfectly acceptable, even likeable as is?
Looking forward to the next one, no question.
LEFT HAND PATH – S/T (Loud Rage Music) (June 17)
Romanian “progressive extreme metal”. It’s very obviously modern in tone, vox are growly-gargly, guitars sound very processed, akin to the likes of Lacuna Coil or Nemesea…but the end result borders on death metal (hell, almost melodeath at times) and something slightly more prog/tech.
There’s a lot of stop/start rhythms and the sort of slightly spastic feel you’d expect from bands raised on emo and metalcore, but when you get a track like “cognitive ills”, it somehow all comes together and just works somehow.
Not something I’d run out and grab, but certainly wouldn’t run to change the dial if this came over the airwaves either…especially not if we’re taking that track (which is clearly “best in show” for this act’s opening salvo.)
One Hour Hell: Voidwalker (VICISOLUM PRODUCTIONS) (September 13)
A very modern death metal…but without the quirky melodicism and appeal of Left Hand Path, even.
Lots of growly-belching going on, with a production, riffing and feel that say “black metal”, or more properly “black/death” in the vein of Behemoth or even Belphegor.
Maybe I’m just feeling mellow today, or maybe the good production holds back a bit of the usual distaste…but I’ll spare ’em the expected toss into the Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards and just walk away from this one, forgetting it ever existed.
You already know whether or not you agree, just from the reference points.
Hellsingland Underground: A Hundred Years Is Nothing (Wild Kingdom) (August 30)
“I was packin’ heat* for a living in the shady part of town, macho men and junkies, cold dead bodies next to mine.”
* or is that “meat”? Gives a very different connotation to all of this if so…hello, Meatpacking District, the parked trailers after dark await ye!”
We spoke to this bizarro uber-mellow revival of stoned 70’s “rock” acts like Mott the Hoople, The Grateful Dead, the Allmans’ balladeering and the later Phish for their Understanding Gravity and walked away equally nonplussed.
Sure to keep aging parents and grandparents feeling vital (hey, I still like something you kids are listening to! I’m still “hip!”) and feed the hipster crowd’s need for faux-retro and the bizarrely enduring existence of “classic rock” radio.
Me, I was tired of this shit in my early teens, and the years really haven’t improved any of it with some warm glow of nostalgia.