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Yep, another one for ya.  Just trying to clean house and catch up in honor of the Lunar New Year…enjoy!

Solução Final – Exilio (Abutre Rex) (November 15)

Portuguese blackthrash act that for whatever reason decides to try their hand at…blackened punk?

Seriously, that’s what you get here: driving, simplistic, straightforward old school punk riffs (think more the goofy four on the floor of the Ramones than something more authentic like the Dead Boys or the later hardcore scene of Bad Brains and Minor Threat here) with piss poor black metal production and both vox and instruments that come off so raw and red zone as to literally crackle in your headphones, earbuds or speakers throughout.

This would all be pretty good, actually, were it not for their bizarre (and decidedly black metal) penchant for extending every track to 12-30 minute lengths.

Seriously. Punk riffs, designed for a few seconds to under two minutes worth of antisocial bashery…extended to last through songs ten to factors thereof times that much.

Accordingly, the one track that’s a clear success? Is one of the three that runs a more appropriate minute and change (the cleverly named “II”).

Shorten these damn things to appropriate punk length, this’d be pretty damn decent, actually…

…but be warned, “blitzkrieg bop” running for a half an hour straight can get rather tedious.

Ruach Raah – Submission In Absolute (War Arts Productions) (November 8)

Ah, our old pals Ruach Raah.

We’d covered these Portuguese malfeasants for their surprisingly decent Hate FanaticismUnder the Insignia of Baphomet and splits with Ordem Satanica and Womb, and unusually for us (regulars know just how unusual this is), they’ve always…yes, always gotten a (very!) positive assessment.

Who knows, maybe it’s the relatively clean (if still appropriately raw overall) production paired with the straightforward, almost punk riffing and approach, the vaguely first wave to early second wave black metal vibe…no idea what makes their stuff work, but suffice to say it does.

That said, this one feels a bit weaker than prior releases appear to have been, given the often effusive praise laid on them herein, as only closer “the sinister bride” (and to a lesser extent, its immediate predecessor “under the influence of lucifer”) really stand out or work in any appreciable degree.

Figuring it was a case of growing on the listener and getting into the mood, I did go back to the earlier tracks to double check, but nah…the first three tracks feel a bit disjointed, like there are too many overly busy riffs thrown in that simply don’t fit, or at least feel completely extraneous to the track as a whole.

Has the band shifted style and approach somewhat, to their detriment? Or is this just an awkward teenage moment in their heretofore highly feted run of recordings?

Only time will tell. Meantime, check out “the sinister bride”…that one’s indisputably killer, at least.

Hate Propaganda – World War 666 (War Arts Productions) (November 8)

A particularly nasty sounding Portuguese attempt at the more “underground” school of black/death, emphasis on the death end for a change.

Noisy, filled with terrible drum sound (is he beating on a mixing bowl? And let’s not get into all those blastbeats…), wayyy too much reverb and multi tracked growling, belching and vomiting and general grindcore-level noisemaking on the guitars…

When they quiet down a bit for closer “let the sirens signal the end of times”, they almost approach a sort of sludgy doom/death…but nope, can’t stick to that for more than a minute and a half, time to go back to all the noise…

Yeah, this one’s an easy pass.

Don’t even bother consigning it to the Pile…just toss it on the ground and stomp on it hard as we move along.

Lurker of Chalice – Tellurian Slaked Furnace (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (March 1)

We covered the self titled of this side project of Leviathan’s Jeff Whitehead two years back, and were distinctly unimpressed thereof.

Here you have what amounts to a second attempt at making something of this, for what it’s worth… Well, OK, technically, this is the demos that were locally released prior to said opus minimus. Yay?

Glacially slow, moody, ultimately pointless, this is a lot of processed mumbling sprechtgesang, feedback, drum machine and occasional ambient open chord strums. Two or three tracks (“VI”, “VII” and “IX”) actually have a bassline, wow. Oh, there’s a slow ambient keyboard on “VIII”). Nothing actually happens.

umm…YEAH, that was uh, GREAT, eh?

(shakes head, facepalm)

You know, back in the day, it was hard to make it as a musician. You actually had to have a band, and I mean a full band – if you had a guitar and drums but no frontman (or woman) and nobody to hold down the bass, you couldn’t get out of the damn basement.

If you had all those folks and managed to work up enough covers to actually play bars and clubs (presuming it wasn’t “pay to play”, mind!) and originals to keep from becoming some wedding band or lifer bar band/tribute act, then you had to pony up hundreds, even up to a thousand bucks for a studio and producer to record your stuff and not leave it sounding like utter crap, so it could be sold on consignment at your local mom and pop record store, sent to actual labels and if you were lucky, played on a sympathetic local college station once or twice.

Then if you had enough of a following and plenty of luck, the right A&R man might attend one of your shows, hopefully you’re having a good night and crowd response, then…and maybe, just maybe, you might get an offer from some small label or other. Then you have to hope the contract didn’t just screw you out of any residuals or control over your work going forward. This stuff was endemic, you can check out interviews with folks like the New Renaissance acts Dream Death and Blood Feast or even thrashers Whiplash for some of the trials and travails involved.

Bottom line, it was tough to get a band together and a record out back when. Left those who did much thinner on the ground, which made them more special…but more importantly, all this winnowing served a purpose. You may not like a given genre or group of bands, but it’s hard to deny they were at least highly representative of a type and were accomplished at doing their thing…because there were dozens and dozens of bands that never got that break.

Some were almost as good, sure – just check out all the demo and EP acts that populate the classic USPM and power/prog genre, a few labels (mostly Greek) make their entire release repertoire of such. But just how many instances of complete dogshit…like, oh, I don’t know…Lurker of Chalice were given the reception they deserved…so we wouldn’t have to.

Maybe we need to bring that back. There’s way too many one man bedroom bands out there releasing utter dogshit like this with impunity, when comparative classics for the ages are only now getting some obscure measure of their due, 3 and 4 decades on.

The only “lurking” on “chalices” being done here is Whitehead squeezing this shit out on the can.

Give it its due, and make it two flushes.

Perdition Hearse – Mala Fide LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (December 31)

Early second wave Norwegian black metal.

As was so often the case with the first and earlier second wave, there’s a very strong thrash underpinning to all of this, unsurprising as the entire band was playing that very style before taking on frontman Stian “Occultus” Johanssen, who was a brief and unrecorded substitute for the post-suicide Per Yngve Ohlin in what was still “the true” Mayhem (before another murder stole all but the drummer from the lineup and the band name was misappropriated for a very different, much inferior style and sound going forward).

This is a compilation of their sole proper demo, a one song release and some previously unreleased rehearsal tracks, the three of which* are actually the sonic highlights of this release.

* there is a fourth, whose childish title of “gloomy rotten skeleton” serves as a warning of what a sloppy abortion of a basement rehearsal track it turns out to be. It almost sounds like a joke, particularly after the astronomically more solid and comparatively polished trio of tracks that precede it…so best to leave this one forgotten and not spoken of further.

With cleaner, more powerful sound than either of their attempts at studio recording and a more open and evident (blackened) thrash feel, those three tracks bring the expected Slayerisms and somewhat unusually Bay Area over Teutonic or South American thrash feel to the fore. You can pick this stuff up pretty easily in the demo material as well…but here it’s undeniable and blatant.

The only real flaw here, in fact, is the vocals, which are shout-snarled and come off rather silly by comparison. Hilariously, the near-notoriety of his presence will likely serve as a selling point to the gullible!

Bottom line: decent thrash band tries to go black metal, but picks a subpar frontman, and all told, should’ve really just stuck to the thrash.

Some interesting stuff here, to be sure…this is hardly the atrocity that Old Funeral was, if still admittedly rather far removed from the polished Sunlight Studios Swedeath of early Darkthrone.

StarGazer – Gloat / Borne LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (February 28)

No strangers to these pages, we’d previously covered these Aussies’ A Merging to the Boundless and its vocal-free Voyd of Voyce, plus their split with Ysengrin.

Interestingly, those releases have (mostly) displayed some (at least instrumentally) progressive tendencies…a trait that drumming aside, appears to be completely absent herein.

A compilation of the band’s first demo and subsequent EP, what’s odd here is that the last two tracks of the demo suddenly sound far more polished and clear, with “infernal” in particular sounding quite death metal proper (where the other tracks come off a decidedly sloppy and noisy variant of blackthrash with vox that switch between black metal snarls and death metal belches for no apparent reason).

The EP bears even worse production, particularly in comparison with the final pair of tracks aforementioned, and adheres entirely to the same sloppy, noisy, overly speedy blackthrash heard earlier.

In one sense, it’s a more cohesive statement of band and genre identity than what you’re used to from StarGazer, which could (I guess) be read as a positive…but if you’re expecting their usual somewhat prog leanings, or even the death metal approach heard best on “infernal”, sorry, but you’re shit outta luck here.

Loits – Ei kahetse midagi LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (February 28)
Loits – Vere kutse kohustab LP (Nuclear War Now! Productions) (February 28)

The first two full lengths from this Estonian act, reissued. Strangely, the versions sent out for review came as full album sides, which left us momentarily wondering why we were missing so many tracks, or why what we had was so damn long…

Anyway, the earlier album (Ei Kahetse…) is the lesser of the two, with only “Tõelised kuningad” (and to a far lesser extent, “veri”) standing out from the somewhat generic material that surrounds.

Vere Kutse…ups the ante with stronger production and a more polished feel, but almost loses the quirky Eastern European black metal feel in the process. If anything, side 1 sounds like a bunch of Devo or Oingo Boingo fans who can’t quite get it together. Check out those weird, tongue in cheek vocals!

Thankfully, side 2 shows a more familiar face, with every other track a comparative powerhouse: “eluruun”, “furor aesticus” and especially closer “raiugem ruunideks”, which brings a rather Abbath-like frog croak vocal to the table.

Far from perfect, but interesting enough for fans of similarly minded bands like Root, Master’s Hammer, Tormentor and suchlike.