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And let’s close this busy week out with a bang, hereby concluding our huge batch of previously prepared review shells.

We’ve already got plenty on tap, but it’ll be a build from scratch situation, and it’s about time to get back to working on Weird Scenes…so enjoy, and we’ll see y’all again when the next batch is ready (just don’t hang on tenterhooks till that happens, it may be a bit!)

Pandemonium: Monuments of Tragedy (Black Lodge Records) (August 30)

Swedish black/death act that owes no small indebtedness to Cradle of Filth, yet fails to replicate what made that band special (at least in its earlier, worthier days).

There’s plenty of spiralling high speed time changes and prominent, gothic-style keyboards…but the vox are straight up gargling aggro gone death, there are Suffocation (false) harmonic sweep arpeggios with concomitantly lumbering riffs, and just about zero of the sort of Decadent, vampiric atmosphere and clever Fin De Siecle linguistic parlance (not to mention the far more idiosyncratic approach to guitars and expansive feel CoF was noted for).

In short, these guys come off more like a French “tech/prog death” act ala Agressor than anything more bombastic and blackened…unless you’re looking to drier, less appealing acts of vaguely similar bent like Behemoth or Dimmu (hint: Pandemonium still bears far more appeal than either of those overrated acts, for what it’s worth.)

Sorta close, has some merits…but in the end, still no cigar.

Sykelig Englen – This Hollow Land (AHPN Records / Clobber Records) (July 17)

Dark, sinister sounding, melodically grim one man bedroom black metal act…which at its best, comes off a lot more successfully than far too many of this type.

Weirdly, the real zinger here is tagged on as a “bonus track” (“parasitic affection”), which crosses Mutiilation with the bleak melodicism of the Finnish scene to potent effect.

The other three tracks can’t quite measure up to that pinnacle, sadly enough, appending more to an early Judas Iscariot template, just with more abrasive vocals.

The man himself describes his sound as akin to the Icelandic scene, and you can hear why he’d say that, but it’s not as bizarre (or dismissable) as that scene (or for that matter, much of the Portuguese one) tends to be.

Even so, that one track aside, there’s a powerful sense of stasis to each of these tracks…not even in the sense of Nargaroth’s deliberate (and oft annoying) repetitivism, but in what comes off as an utter lack of harmonic motion. Riffs lumber or arpeggiated notes float off dreamily, but both “unearthing the hex” and “this hollow land” seem to stand still throughout, lingering in the same spot like a fart on a humid day.

The track with the most ostensible “motion” here (“bearer of the ritual lantern”) is also the least likeable or affecting, and still sort of stumble-marches in place, barely taking a few steps before falling back to the starting line.

That being duly noted, there is enough Burzumic tranciness and appealing Finnish melodicism to the man’s efforts to make this one well worth a listen, particularly on the “bonus track”, and if you dig that, move on to “unearthing” and “hollow”…all rather worthy in their own respect.

ESOGENESI (Italy) – S/T (Transcending Obscurity Records) (October 4)

Thick and lumbering death/doom. Busy descant basslines thump just beneath, surprisingly audible but not so prominent they can’t be tuned out a bit to blend right in to the mix (which is good, as they tend to clash somewhat, throwing down a few too many blue notes on tracks like “decadimento astrale”).

Vox are deep and wet, if never quite hitting the depths of acts like Anatomia or the more death-appropriate vocal moments in Ahab and the production is quite good, allowing both clean and dirty guitars the room ambience and fullness they deserve. Some dual tracked guitars (like the close of “esilio nell’extramundo”) really bolster an already potent mix.

If there’s anything “off” about this one, it’s the relentlessly busy and incessantly wandering bass…Signore Campanelli, it might be advisable to put a cork in it every now and again, this ain’t the bass olympics!

Even so…damn good stuff, all told. Right up the old alley, as it were…

BONES (US) – Diseased (Transcending Obscurity Records) (September 20)

What do you get when you cross Discharge, GBH, Medeival, Genocide and (at a stretch) Venom and Autopsy?

Strangely, some of the opening riffs here stink of glam metal, at least in the better sense of Motley Crue (“diseased”, “boozer”), while others like “crucifer” and “mass graves” come off decidedly Bay Area thrash, the latter with an arguable touch of vintage death metal to boot.

And yet, when subsumed under such a crusty, almost D-Beat inattention to polish and clarity? Such disparate influences can fit and work together surprisingly well…

Vox are shout-gargle vomits, but again…in this context and milieu? You probably won’t even notice, or consider them some weird homage to Martin Van Drunen’s Asphyx work…

Not bad at all, certainly stirs something in the ol’ metal heart.

CHAOS MOTION (France) – Psychological Spasms Cacophony (Transcending Obscurity Records) (October 18)

Pointless experimentalism that gives way to utter cacophony. Appropriate album title, that…

Seriously, bleeps and bloops of noise you can make by screwing around aimlessly on a drunk night with your guitar and distortion pedal, which give way to spastic flurries of energetic but pointless nonsense in the vein of Primus, Mr. Bungle or Tourniquet, but never actually coalescing into proper riffs or motion.

Just throw a bunch of noise at the wall and pretend it’s music!

oh, you know exactly where this one’s going.

EXPRESS AIR MAIL SERVICE! FOOOOOOOORE!!!!!

OUCH! Dammit, that was a melted shard of CD that just hit me…this one must’ve really sucked hard, to fly back far enough to hit even yours truly!

Buyer beware, this one’s the kind of turd that blows up the whole shithouse. Nobody light any matches, huh?

…next?

Curse of Denial – Coming For Your Soul (Redefining Darkness Records) (July 26)

Straight out of Cleveland, Ohio comes this likeably melodic and consonant tech death act.

The guitarist tends to go off on aimless experimental tangents far too often for his own good, but when he keeps things on track, it’s clear he’s a decent player (and that’s understating the matter), the sort that people pay attention to bands to hear (remember all the buzz around Alex Skolnick when Testament dropped The Legacy?).

And yeah, they definitely do tread a bit too much in the Agressor school of “tech death* (with vague leanings towards black/death, perhaps)” for my own tastes…but even within a single track, you’re highly likely to run into a long consonant section and get an eye opening solo besides.

* yep, there are moments easily tied back to Chuck Schuldiner (LINK) and company’s latter works herein…

I kept thinking Andy LaRocque and early King Diamond in this respect, but that’s a tenuous connection other than the playing style, looking forward to seeing what each lead would bring and the disjointed multi-part riffing in any given track…

Regardless, be aware that you’ll pick up on all of the aforementioned at given points throughout the course of the album’s running time, and find yourself questioning just where this should really lie on the scale between (tech) death, black(/death) or something else entirely (the crunchy machine gun riffing and production even brought Forgotten Goddess-era Echoes of Eternity to mind). It’s a weird one, to be sure.

But one that may well be worthy of putting the time into, at the very least for the quality playing and lead work.

  

BRO JOVI – Songs to Crush Beers To Vol I : Slippery When Blacked (Seeing Red Records) (July 10)

Stoner rock with more aggro than typical for this 90’s-revivalist genre.

I guess if you crossed Phil Anselmo with the faux-Southern twang of Danzig’s howls, tossed in a hint of Kriadiaz and then took equal parts CoC, Fu Manchu and Black Label Society, you may wind up with something like this.

It’s as if The New Black went one percenter, all doo rags and Dust Bowl aesthetic, a’growlin’ an’ a’howlin’ like some ersatz biker “metal” act along the lines of Zodiac Mindwarp or Circus O’Power, you might wind up with something like this…

Too bad, from the writeup and promo pix, I really thought this could have been fun, like a Bob & Doug MacKenzie take on the usual Cheech & Chong of the genre. But nooo…

Disposable, forgettable, ignorable, very typical of the Stateside “metal” scene even in today’s much improved and far more retro-minded scene.

Want to know why European metalheads make fun of us and (as I saw on one thread) “that shit they call “metal” over in the States”?

Here’s Exhibit A.

HIVE – Most Vicious Animal (Seeing Red Records (CD / Digital) | Crown and Throne Ltd. (Vinyl / Digital) (August 20)

Noisy, Van Drunen vocalled (not literally, but close enough) D-beat/crust punk cum metal affair, much akin to a Joel Grind side project.

As such, nothing major to complain about here, bar the vocals (which are something of a bizarre fit for this sort of music)…but not a lot to celebrate, as there’s too much of a black/death vibe to all the ringing arpeggiated guitars and mids-heavy guitar tone and worse, every song sounds much the same as the 5 before or after it.

More of a test for just how much bland if busy and aggressive sameness you can take than anything beyond that.

Jesusegg – The Second Coming (Seeing Red Records) (July 26)

Grindcore act that leans more noise than the traditional Carcass/Repulsion/Terrorizer school thereof, or even the more recent pig squeal nonsense that appears to have taken over as the “go to sound”.

Forgettable, unless you’re really big on weird guitar noise experimentation and shrieking over 20 second to a minute and a half long tracks.

Effigy – MCMXCII – Darkest Day (Redefining Darkness Records (N.America) | Raw Skull Records (Europe) (July 26)

Ah, nice.

After the recent reissue of Burial’s classic Relinquished Souls, Redefining Darkness and Raw Skull have once again joined forces to dig a little deeper than usual into the annals of “forgotten” and “obscure” death metal from back in the scene’s heyday (arguably stretching from Death’s Scream Bloody Gore in ’87 through 1992/3, and most pointedly active and prominent between 1990-2).

What’s even more interesting here is that unlike Burial (who did get a release and even a prior reissue I had in the ol’ collection from some years back), this time they seem to be focusing on demo acts.*

* though who knows – from the promo writeup, it looks like they may continue with the previously released “rare gems” as well – good by me!

These guys are obscure enough that even their demo doesn’t appear on the usual sites known for tracking such things…at least until a month or so back, as if it were a brand new band. But given that what further credits could be found for any of the members date back to ’91 or thereabouts, it’s likely that this is in fact some long lost, barely traded vintage recording…which it certainly sounds like. Hell, even the demo title points to 1992…

This one just pounds away, all blastbeat-free, double bass-driven drumming, crunchy but not overly in your face guitars and even occasionally audible bass and gargly Malevolent Creationlike vocals (there’s even a Glen Benton nod at the end of “darkest day”!)…and all the listenability and vibe classic death metal brings to bear.

No idea who these guys are or how Redefining Darkness and Raw Skull laid their hands on this demo…but I’m kinda glad they did.

Not top tier stuff…but if you dig midrange acts like Gorefest, Sinister, Decomposed, even Messiah and Burial, you’d be well advised to go check these guys out, they dropped one hell of a demo here.

Sculpted Horror – Festering Death EP (Redefining Darkness Records) (July 26)

A vague feel of Incantation, a touch of Demilich, you get the idea – it’s all deep vomit vox, thin tremelo guitars and pounding drums and a somewhat crusty death/doom approach reminiscent of the sort of thing Necroharmonic used to rescue and release.

What’s nice here is that this is a young band with a retro sound…and yet it doesn’t feel slavishly copycattish to any one (or group of) band(s). Could you read a bit of Anatomia in there? Sure. But then again…well, no, not really. It’s that sort of affair.

Four track demo, looking forward to more like this.

Morbus Grave – Abomination (Redefining Darkness Records) (July 26)

Well, they’re trying.

Another young band, making an attempt at recapturing the vintage death metal sound…or more particularly, the crustier end of same, ala Autopsy, but one oddly more devoted to speed over sluggish doominess.

And that’s exactly the problem here – even on their best track “the horrible”, they can’t keep things to the morbidly atmospheric for long, before bursting into yet another speedy run to the finish line. Did like that organ tape sample, though…

Not terrible, or even terribly off the mark.

But these guys gots ta chill, i-ight?

Word.

…next?

Deceitome – Flux of Ruin (Redefining Darkness Records (N.America) | Raw Skull Records (Europe) (August 2)

Grave wannabes out of Estonia.

Well, I will say that on hearing the title cut, our first impression was “I wish I was Incantation…I wish I was Incantation…”, so if you cross a bit of that aesthetic with a lot of the detuned, sludgy HM-2 sound of Ola Lindgren and company, you know exactly what to expect.

Hey, I love vintage Grave, before they went all groove or whatever…so that’s not a bad thing to strive for.

But did this really impress or stand out in any way otherwise?

Nope.

Those jonesing for some retro-Grave (with perhaps more than just a touch of Incantation in the mix), here’s your fix.

Swarn – Black Flame Order (Redefining Darkness Records (N.America) | Raw Skull Records (Europe) (August 2)

Another retro minded Estonian death metal act. These guys also lean vintage Swedeath…but where exactly they fall on that spectrum is open to debate.

Is that a bit of Carnage? mmm…perhaps. A touch of Nirvana 2000? maybe. Just tag in a bit of the “underground black/death” aesthetic, complete with noisiness, overuse of reverb, et al…at least on certain tracks, at certain times (like “the otherness” or “labyrinth of amygdala”.)

Is it bad? No.

Did it do anything for me? Well…sorry, but no. Not really.

Darkened – Into the Blackness – (Edged Circle Productions) (August 23)

Now THIS is more like it.

Members of Bolt Thrower, Disma, Funebrarum and others you may or may not have heard of (including A Canorous Quintet, whose The Only Pure Hate we covered here) join forces for a semi-“all star” project in death metal.

What makes this work so well? Picture Bolt Thrower riffs with major hints of the death/doom Funebrarum and Disma brought to the table.

Let that sink in.

So yeah, in the end, it’s more akin to Bolt Thrower than it ever touches the Funebrarum or Disma elements…but seriously. Who’s complaining?

Top notch, with enough of an assured feel to give a major hint to even the most clueless of listeners that this ain’t their kid brother’s garage band…but guys who’ve been at this for a bit, working a little touch of magic.

Asagraum – Dawn of Infinite Fire (Edged Circle Productions) (September 13)

Interesting that pix show a three piece, when all sources seem to indicate this is pretty much a one woman show with a drummer (yeah, I know, drums do count too).

Anyway, as you can tell, this is a femme black metal act, if that bothers anyone out there they’d best scroll on to the next review.
Done? Okay, so what we’ve got here is some pretty hardline black/death in the Swedish style, somewhere between Watain, Marduk and Tsjuder without ever tipping the scales into full on Norsecore.

Vox are nasty and a bit thin (as you might expect), but entirely believable and even a touch more “evil” sounding (same deal as you hear with Bestial Holocaust, it’s reedier and more biting than the usual male shrieks and snarls). Guitars are dead on and solid for this style, and the drums are appropriately relentless without foregoing one iota of aggression.

Bottom line, if you dig Tsjuder or Urgehal, you’ll be happy here. If you’re more Marduk or Watain school, you should still be pretty comfortable, but find the sound a bit too generic – too polished and samey for Watain fans, too noisy and mids-heavy, not to mention poorly produced, for Marduk fans.

Is it the sort of thing I’d run out to add to the collection back when I was more of a black metaller than not? No, I wouldn’t say that. But would I turn up my nose at a copy if someone gave it to me? Hell, no.

Perfectly acceptable, and probably a whole lot better than you may expect from a two (wo)man job (assuming there isn’t something we aren’t being told about that third figure in the photos).

ROTTING CHRIST / VARATHRON – Duality of the Unholy Existence (split 7″ EP) (Hells Headbangers) (June 28)

Two long running leaders of the Greek black metal scene join forces for this brief but affecting split.

Rotting Christ needs no introduction…though if you want one, look no further than our discussion of The Heretics earlier this year.

Suffice to say, they not only single handedly built a scene out of nothing (and to much resistance, given their decidedly in your face choice of moniker), but granted the scene its best face, all vintage traditional and thrash metal repurposed in the most melodic fashion possible to the service of darker things.

To say their first trio of releases (an EP and two full lengths) is essential to understanding the Greek scene is pretty much a given, and their contribution “spiritus sancti” hearkens back to those early classics in ways that may surprise fans of their newer, rather different approach.

Varathon comes with a spottier track record, despite a clear allegiance to many of the tropes that make Sakis and Themis Tolis’ work so palatable – just look at our take on Untrodden Corners of Hades.

Of course, they put on a much better face for both the subsequent Confessional of the Black Penitents and this year’s Patriarchs of Evil, so it’s possible they were just going through a bit of a slump 5 years back. Case in point – while hardly up to Rotting Christ’s rather intense offering here, their own “shaytan” is certainly complementary and sure to appeal to fans of the Tolis brothers…at least enough that nobody’ll sneeze at their presence on the same split.

It’s as you’d expect. Neither track is bad…Rotting Christ’s is really, really good.

ABSYMAL LORD – Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal (CD, LP, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (August 16)

Ah, Abysmal (or “Absymal”, it keeps changing with each successive release, apparently…) Lord.

We’ve dealt with these “bestial black”/”war metal” noisemakers several times in the past, from Storms of Unholy Black Mass to the even worse produced and noisier Disciples of the Inferno to their split with Crurifagium last year…and every time, it’s the same story.

You ever talk to an old fart?

You know, you’re out at the park or picking up your mail or something, and get accosted by some geriatric type “just trying to be friendly” by dropping some inane bit of conversation, usually in the form of either a “dad joke” or complaint of some sort (the weather, the mailman, the way you’re dressed, whatever)?

If you actually let them get out more than a brief phrase, like if you’re stuck in an elevator with ’em, what do they inevitably say?

“nothing ever changes…except maybe for the worse.”

Well, this may not be case in point for the latter half of that statement…but it sure as hell is Exhibit A for the former!

SADOKIST – Necrodual Dimension Funeral Storms (CD, LP, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (August 30)

We covered these noisy blackthrash speed demons for their extremely poorly produced Thy Saviour’s Halo, Held by Horns 3 years ago, and about the best we could offer is that the snarly snot-gargling vox were appropriately sinister sounding.

This time around, the production’s better (newcomers, realize we’re speaking comparatively, here…it still sounds like shit, but compared to their last effort? This one’s practically a Rick Rubin job!

You get the idea they’re really trying to ape certain Brazilian blackened thrash acts (cough Sextrash cough Sarcofago) despite hailing from Finland…particularly when you see tracks like “death erection” and “I will fuck(y?) tonight”.

That’s right. Nothing says “gonna get some” like declaring your intent to “fucky”. Thanks, Sarcofago!

…yeah, there’s not much else to say here. If your love for old school and decidedly naive DIY blackthrash overrides more qualitative standards of judgment and taste, these guys should certainly fill the bill.

All others need not apply, and are permitted to stand in the corner and snicker.

SYNTELEIA – Ending of the Unknown Path (CD, LP) (Hells Headbangers) (August 30)

Ah, another Greek black metal act…and thankfully one who append fairly close to the standards set by the Tolis brothers so many years ago. (Yes, there are Greek acts who don’t follow so closely in their wake…much to their, and indeed our collective detriment.)

Wait…is this a Necronomidol album? Sure enough, there’s “Ithaqua”…and “Celephais”. And some Lovecraft references to “the black goat” and “masks of Nyarlahotep”…

So yeah, apparently this is a Rotting Christ and Necronomidol inspired act, who sound most like the former and swipe song titles and ideas from the latter! *

* to be fair, the Necronomidol iterations of these songs are much better…but that’s neither here or there.

That aside, it’s not bad.

SLAUGHTBBATH – Alchemical Warfare (CD, LP, TAPE) (Hells Headbangers) (September 6)

Chile’s Slaughtbbath, who we’d covered for their splits with Hades Archer,
Ill Omen and Grave Desecrator, plus their Temple Below side project and their own Contempt, War and Damnation return for yet another round in the ring.

The biggest plus about these South American blackthrashers is their clear swipes of Slayer riffs, sped up (check out “resucitated by immortal storm”, “ritual bloodbath”, “cavern of misanthropy”…hell, just about every track drops a few inverted, sped up riffs and Hanneman-style solos…just look at the damn album title!

And you know, if you listen to a lot of classic thrash, particularly that from outside the States proper? That’s exactly what you hear, tons of swipes of Hell Awaits-era (in particular) Slayer. And? What did we get from that but some of the greatest thrash albums ever released?

So yeah, they’re very copycattish…but they do put their own spin on things, and hey…so were a LOT of bands back in the day.

I was good with this, yeah.

Pa Vesh En – Pyrefication LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (August 23)

Oy.  Talentless and prolific.

Our pal from Belarus returns for yet another slab of atmospheric photo shoots and aimless ambient noise, following on last year’s A Ghostsplit with Temple Moon, Church of Bones and Cryptic Rites of Necromancy.

Every time, he drops another pointless ambient drone, feedback whine under extreme reverb or what he’s best known for: atonal collages of noise coming from one instrument plus five others all layered on top of each other.

It’s like the “special” bus just pulled in to the rehearsal room and someone hit record just for a laugh. Not a minute goes by without some out of tune barrage of feedback, bum notes or aimless fills in the wrong key entirely clashes with lurching walls of lo-fi noise, caused by either an utter inability to play any of the instruments being utilized or just a perverse desire to ruin what little overtures towards harmonic progression (forget “melody”, it phoned in sick today…) may have been buried therein.

It’s like the guy behind Front Beast had a kid who got exposed to too much radiation or a few too many hits under the sonogram…it’s that bad.

By far the closest you get to something worth speaking to is the droning Burzumic trance of “pyre of the forgotten”…which is equally marred by all the flaws and utter atonal nonsense cluttering the rest of the man’s releases, as described herein and in prior reviews of his work.

Almost inclined to forgive the guy just for that track’s undertones, which are powerful.

Too bad his urge to destroy even his own work prevailed so mightily in the final product. There was a definite gem in the rough buried beneath all that atonal noise collage bullshit.

Runespell – Voice of Opprobrium LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (September 6)

We’d spoken to this Aussie black metal act twice before, for their Order of Vengeance and Unhallowed Blood Oath, and both times found his grim old school melodicism far more akin to the Finnish or even Greek and Italian schools thereof than the far blunter, more abrasive and raw death-inspired approach of his own countrymen’s huge but not especially impressive scene.

Guess what? That hasn’t changed much.

If anything, this one comes off more like Hades/Enslaved style Norwegian “Viking”/black metal (“all thrones perish”, “wraithwoods” and “wings of fate”), while “ascendant” crosses that sound with the pronounced anthemic melodicism of the Finnish scene, and “voice of opprobrium” delivers a very melodic take on the Polish scene ala Graveland.

Now, no question that the standouts here are the less pointedly Hades (nee “Almighty”)-like “ascendant” and “voice of opprobrium”, but while things certainly go downhill after you include “all thrones perish” in the list of “tracks to check out”, all of this does more or less work…so no major complaints here.

I just hope the man doesn’t lose his way pursuing the Viking route…it’s the (IT other IT ) elements that make the stronger tracks here, and all of his prior material praised in these pages, work so well.

Black Cilice – Transfixion of Spirits LP/CD/TAPE (Iron Bonehead) (September 6)

Another one man band with certain unwelcome similarities to the earlier discussed Pa Vesh En, this time hailing from Portugal.

We’d covered his MysteriesNocturnal Mysticism and Banished from Time, and found a plethora of terrible to abysmal production, the usual “underground black metal” obsession with extreme reverb, atonality and clashing instrumentation.

If anyone else out there is doing that irritating poly(a)tonal feedback and noise from one instrument jumbled up with the same from others ala Pa Vesh En, it’s Black Cilice…

Last time, though, we found a burgeoning appreciation for some of the underlying drone elements and mood produced, in spite of all the myriad and glaring failings of the material per se.

Sadly, that’s not happening this time around (though it almost did, interestingly enough, with Pa Vesh En’s “pyre of the forgotten”)…just a lot of lo-fi noise and chaos in search of a trancey drone.

(sighs, shakes head)

…next?

Ancient Moon – Benedictus diabolica, Gloria Patri LP/CD (Iron Bonehead) (September 20)

hoo boy, I thought I recognized that band name.

We’d covered Ancient Moon’s split with Prosternatur about a year back and found their sound much akin to all the troo kvlt anthem to the welkin atmosphere of working in a sawmill.

Here you get two circa 20m tracks that do in fact contain that same giant rip saw working its way through precious timber sound…but given their length, further devolve into ambient nonsense, chanting and lumberingly slow sections as well…all of which are equally worthless and pointless, mind.

Special delivery, unregistered mail to: Pile…scratch that, Flaming Pyre of Dead Bards, New York, NY.

WHIZZZ!!!

…well, saves on postage, giving it the ol’ Hercules toss.

consider those melted plastic chunks burning holes in your clothes part of the admission price. Better: they’re free souvenirs!

…next?

Grabunhold – Unter dem Banner der Toten 12″ MLP/MCD (Iron Bonehead) (September 20)

German black metal. They’re clearly trying to evoke the old school (early) second wave Norwegian sound, and there’s an extent to which it works.

That said…it’s missing something important, as if this were a triumph of style over substance, of capturing the glossy sheen of a sound without truly grasping the dark flames that lie beneath and inform it.

Does that make a track like “gespenster” or the more pensive midsection of “hexentanz” any less listenable or appropriately “grim”? Hardly, and so far as it goes, the band is to be commended for accurately recapturing the basic sound and approach of that era.

But while the sound is objectively “right”…something just isn’t clicking, a resonant flame isn’t igniting within this listener that says “this is true”. “Troo”, maybe. But not true.

Still well worth a listen, for all that.

The Mezmerist – The Innocent, the Forsaken, the Guilty LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions / Shadow Kingdom) (July 15)

Weird missing link between Mercyful Fate and vintage US power metal (both of whom were noted for frontmen prone to inappropriate and somewhat laughable bursts of falsetto – Bride, Have Mercy and Solar Angels spring immediately to mind!), with an almost but not quite doomy orientation vaguely akin to Italian acts like The Black, Run After To and Paul Chain.

Fascinatingly, none other than Bill Ward of Black Sabbath fame handles the more syncopated and behind the beat drumming on the first four track EP contained herein.

Oddly, the second EP dispenses with a lot of the falsetto vocals (or vocals per se!), shows a much improved playing ability on the part of our intrepid frontman/guitarist Tommy Mezmercado and far busier, more aggressive on (if not ahead of) the beat drumming (which is still pretty busy and likeable in its own right), which changes their style to more of a Manilla Road vibe.

While both work for all their differences in approach and membership, it’s the former that truly fascinates, not least for the more lo-fi production, doomy, Black Rose/Brats/demo-era Mercyful Fate vibe and most importantly, Ward’s popping snare, busy cymbalwork and syncopated fills. While the new guy’s pretty damn good, there’s simply no mistaking that this is a seasoned pro on the kit, period.

How this slipped so deep beneath the radar back in ’83 (the second EP went unreleased, which makes sense given its more instrumental approach and sheer oddity) is on one hand surprising…but then again, not so much, if you follow certain labels out of Greece and elsewhere who specialize in digging up demo obscurities from some pretty accomplished and likeable US power and prog metal bands from the 80’s and early 90’s.

Suffice to say, count this site very happy NWN and Shadow Kingdom have pulled this one together for a (partial re-)release now.

If you dig any of the genres or acts aforementioned, you’d be a fool to let this one go unheard.

DRUADAN FOREST – Dismal Spells From the Dragonrealm (CD, DLP) (Werewolf) (September 27)

We’d covered this Finnish one man “dungeon synth” act for his split with The True Werewolf, and if you’re looking for another rather Mortiis Era I offering akin to that earlier effort, look no further than “the seizure of power in the luminous lands by the hands of the stalking fiends” (whew!)

Unfortunately, the rest of this release…and we’re talking four 16-20m long tracks here, people…is aimless ambient, almost “space rock” in the sense of Tangerine Dream (but arguably even less effusive and coherent).

One good track, three utter wastes of time.

Your call.

Nex Carnis – Black Eternity 7″ EP (Blood Harvest) (September 27)

Seriously spastic buzzing bee tremelo guitars that give way to brief lumbering sections with deep belch vox before launching into another mad flurry of swarming and stinging activity.

Put the jar of honey down slowly, and back away.

Damn, who knew all those shitty 70’s environmental horror films were really discussing terrible blackened death metal acts that wouldn’t even appear for another 40 years?

Two tracks, but you’ll be swollen and allergic long before they end.

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