Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine [2012]



Here is a release that comes, as no surprise to most of their long time fans, as simply incredible! No one should expect any less from these experienced black metallers. Silencing Machine was released recently on July 31st on Century Media Records. This is an album that has tons of replay value, and takes you through a series of vast emotions, most of them very dark, if you didn't already know! They accomplish this through their very accomplished musicianship, and with the way the whole songs come together. They are also able to mix influences without mixing genres. It is all these things that make this album stand out!

The cover art of this beastly bastard describes the feeling of the album perfectly. It is dark but not in a way that makes you want to kill yourself. It is more of "I can feel the power of evil making me stronger" thing. The album starts out with fast paced black metal excellence, that transitions into an upbeat version of the riff that ties into the evil power for-mentioned. The songs also seem to move between one another very well, not jumping from one thing to another too often. Track number 4 is a very stand out track that keeps the dark feeling but at the same time making you want to conquer. Truly amazing stuff in every track that makes it come together as a whole.

Aside from the genius guitar work presented one of the stand out qualities that shows influence (without changing the genre). Take the title track for example, at 4:38 there is a stellar guitar break that busts into an upbeat riff that really makes you want to head bang and get up and mosh! But at the same time they never loose the black metal character. About midway through that gnarly riffing there is a guitar lead that will just make you want to pull your face off.

This is a solid release and there isn't really anything that takes away from being a flawless release. That is very opinionated, but when looking for an excellent black metal release this has everything to offer. Please don't pass up on this! They will be announcing tour dates soon! Check them out anyway you can!

95/100

Favorite Tracks: Dawn Over the Ruins in Jerusalem, Silencing Machine, I Wait in Hell, These Rooms In Which We Weep

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ashencult - Black Flame Gnosis [2012]


It’s funny when you lower your expectations of new releases so much that when you hear something that’s actually good, it blows your mind. Ashencult break that scale altogether. A relatively knew band, originating from Philly, PA, they released their debut album Black Flame Gnosis on May 31 of this year. This four-piece black metal band whose members go simply by initials, it’s quite clear, aren’t shy in demonstrating their love for melodic black metal titans Dissection. Not only the similar riffing, but small things like the occasional acoustic intro/outro or even some of the drum fills make this similarity especially evident. Notwithstanding that this style of melodic black metal is by no means original, one would be hard pressed to find a band better imitating it today; and that’s not to say that this album is a complete rip-off, either; no, Ashencult incorporate their own little preferences into their music, be it a black/thrash break or even some punky tendencies here and there.

The most astonishing song on this album is easily “Dark Law/Black Fires of Chaos,” which starts off with an acoustic intro, transitioning into some of the best melodic black metal riffing to be heard in the foreseeable future; and it’s hard not to feel an incredible urge to pound your fists and head over and over once the drums come in to push the song fully forward. There’s no doubt as to the riffs being the best part of this album; they dominate it, flooding songs with sundry and varied (almost perfectly varied, it should be said) sharp black metal riffing, tremolo bursts and black/thrash breaks being thrown left and right. And I reiterate--the variation on this album is perfect. One moment a melodic riff is played, the next you’re pounded on by a groovy black/thrash riff (“A Glorious Elegy” has an especially good one). It keeps things interesting. But the rest of the instruments, including the vocals, are near-equally deserving of strong accolades. The powerful drumming does a lot for the music, the drummer of whom seems to have a strong penchant for striking as powerfully as possible; definitely a pro. And the violent and aggressive vocals shriek and growl in both high and low tones; reminding one, perhaps, of the singer of Bethlehem mixed in with a lot of Dissection, but kicked up a thousand notches. These ear-piercing shrieks are especially apparent in the melodic points of “Plague Revelation.”

This album has so many riffs that it's hard to be sure when one song ends and another one begins. Ashencult by far exceed most of the black metal bands releasing material today. Why those bands are signed and Ashencult aren’t, I will never know. But it’s more than obvious that these black metal fanatics probably won’t ever disappoint with future releases, and in that there’s some comfort to be found. Black Flame Gnosis has just placed itself as my favorite black metal album yet of 2012. No doubt once more people hear of them, they’ll fill the same position for them as well. Who knows what other bands are currently recording in their studios, about to release the next best album of 2012? I lie in wait. But until then, it would be a wise move to keep a close eye out for Ashencult.

89/100

-SmithMetal84

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deathspell Omega - Drought [2012]


For those few people still ignorant of their existence, Deathspell Omega of France are a three-piece black metal/avant-garde band, formed in 1998, and who have in recent years made a name for themselves as a result of their incredible musical and creative capabilities; “breaking the boundaries,” one could say, of a genre-gone-stale in desperate need of revival. With their tremendous 2010 release “Paracletus,” they even went beyond their own self-set boundaries, firmly cementing themselves as the pioneers of a still-flourishing take on black metal. Two years, a compilation and an EP later, they have come back with a fresh new offering, “Drought,” a reminder of the reason why we (those of us who did) became such avid fans in the first place, and why we should stick around for subsequent releases. Arguably one of the most influential black metal bands of our time, this has been (at least on my part) a highly anticipated release, and DsO did not let down; not in the least. In this release they incorporate an even larger focus on the ambient and post-rock spectrum of their music; all the while demolishing everything in their path.

The soothing yet eerily tranquil piece “Salow Vision” starts off the EP on a relatively slow note, easing you into the whirlwind of brutality that follows with elements evocative of post-rock and a poignancy not often heard in their music with such outpouring of emotion. (A note of similarity can be found here with “Paracletus,” as “Epiklesis I” also kicked that album off rather slowly). “Fiery Serpents,” the next track on the EP, blasts with their trademark sound of dissonance after dissonance, complex structures, and incredibly talented instrumentation for which they have made themselves known. But it’s not until “Scorpions & Drought” that we truly hear the extent to which DsO will go in terms of brutality, technicality and precision, more reminiscent of “Paracletus” than any new deviation in style. As in "Abrasive Swirling Murk," chaotic blast beats driving alongside highly complex structures are heard occasionally, though not nearly as much as in earlier releases; replaced instead by slower drumming and less frantic guitars. And, to my slight dismay, DsO have abandoned--or at least dimished in--the malign and raw evil that their earlier works tended to emit.

The final track on the EP, “The Crackled Book of Life,” closes off the EP with a groovy and--yes, you’re reading it correctly--catchy main riff, and despite its complete lack of anything black metal, it might actually be one of the better tracks off the EP. From start to finish, “Drought” drives through its 20 minutes’ worth of new material with speed and power, and enough dissonance for any DsO fan, not to mention the slower and equally amazing post-rock tracks. But even though quite dramatic changes in pace are heard, it’s hard not to be astonished by the incredible flow and seamlessness with which this EP was written. And, unlike its predecessor “Paracletus,” or, even before that, “Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum,” DsO seem to have opted for coherence rather than the absolute and utter chaos with which the latter was filled. It’s strange, though, that it can all at once be called a substantially brutal release and simultaneously surprise with its not-too-overpowering ambient, post-rock and progressive elements. This EP will easily establish itself as one of the standouts of DsO’s entire discography; a job damn well done.

90/100

-SmithMetal84 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme [2012]

Mother of all slams! This is everything you could want from the mighty Dying Fetus!




Don't you just love it when an album you have been waiting on for so long delivers beyond your expectations?! The newest album from the Brutal Death Slammers Dying Fetus. The instrumentals make you want to stare in awe. And then the slams kick in and it forces you to grasp the nearest poor fellow and beat his face so hard his mother will never recognize him! If there is any fetus albums anyone thinks is a little less impressive than others... prepare to get very excited.

You will instantly feel a great feeling of joy and excitement the second you hit play. The sweeps hit you right away in the first song, "Invert the Idols". And you find yourself thinking, this is going to be a masterpiece! This song is a perfect choice to open the album with, because not only does it rip right away with the sweeps and blasts, but it has all the characteristics of the ideal Dying Fetus track. About mid way through there is a build up with the guitars holding out that low open note just before the bone breaker riff. There is also choice guitar lead/sweeps in "From Womb to Waste" at 2:07. That riffage will definitely remind the fans of their earlier albums. And the riffage that follows that is stunning! They break for a second then go into an upbeat mosher! The thrashers might take interest in this!

But alas! DAT FUGGIN SLAM!! That is what we are all listening to this for right? They are just impeccable in this monster release. They make the guys like myself want to throw some elbows and bench press 400 pounds! It is incredible how they can pull of the brutal death slams with out sounding too much like slam death or hardcore. And there isn't any songs on here that one would just skip over. There is literally legendary beat your face in slammage in every track! I would choose some favorites but there is literally so many! The first track would definitely be up there. And all over the "In the Trenches" track. However this is some brutal death slams in the next track, Devout Atrocity, around the one minute mark. This is a track they better perform live. It is just death metal genius.

This is something any fan could run their mouth about for hours. The point could have been made in a few short sentences: "Maybe the best thing they have put out. This bad mother slams and will not let you down." Neither one of those statements is ever used lightly. This is a must have. Get excited.

100% (Seriously, it was that good. It had everything I wanted to hear from a Dying Fetus album. It deserves a 100)


Favorite Tracks: All of them were equally amazing. But Editors Choice: From Womb to Waste, In the Trenches, and Devout Atrocity.




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

HeXeN - Being and Nothingness [2012]

The musicianship here is uncanny! 


It is always incredible to hear an album where you can clearly hear each members love for their musical instrument. If it takes these gents a little bit longer than the fans wanted to get this one out then so be it. If you find yourself thinking, "Man, I have been waiting forever for this bad mother to come out! It better be good!"; then fear not! Because these songs are VERY thought out and much time was spent with each and every one. 

What really sticks out about this undoubtedly the astounding musicianship. Things keep moving here and well, progressing into something more. A lot of the time whenever the word "progressive" is uttered, people shun and think "BOOOORING!", and that could not be further from the truth. It is as if the band has to move forward each time they play a riff. The evidence is clear in every song, but for example with the first song "Macrocosm", which starts out with a piano playing a minor chord progression (total prog move), you can take every phrase and find a little something different each time. And that applies to every song on this glorious bastard. 

There is one thing that must be noted. This album is very melodic. This is one thing that I actually tend to stay away from because to be frank, it isn't my thing; nothing against it. It is just not my thing. But for those who cannot get enough of melody in metal this is the perfect album for you! These guys did not skip a day of music class and clearly know what they are doing. 

This really is a great album and to be honest, this one will probably be the one that takes them to the top. They really deserve it for the time and effort that was put into this bad boy. This is album appeals to everyone but if you happen to be a guitar player... prepare to crap yourself, and then start touching yourself... in that order. Legends could take a lesson for these guitarists. For a band that spent this much time trying to make themselves as well as you happy with killer tunes; you should return the favor and pick this up. Well worth your money and more importantly it is worth your time. 

83%

Favorite Tracks: Defcon Rising, Stream Of Unconsciousness, Nocturne

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cripple Bastards - Senza Impronte [2012]

Very impressive grindcore that is impossible to put down!


This is just such a great listen! These veteran grinders from Italy really know how to rip you a new asshole. Seriously, keep a clean pair of pants nearby. The key to really first class grind album, and any genre for that matter, is the keen ability to keep ones interest. And it is easy to say that these men are experts at just that. Especially in grind though, because grind moves pretty fast (duh!) and if it gets boring... it gets boring fast! Not to mention the rapid fire vocals that keep it brutal as fuck! This album is like concentrated "PISSED OFF" played through amplifiers.

It's as if every few seconds there is a crazy transition that forces the mind to pay attention. You have to do something to keep the attention of all the psycho A.D.D. grind fans out there! How many lifetimes must one live to think of all these things! Of course the riffs matter, like always but it is the little things in this album you just have to treasure. And like all things grind they happen so fast you almost don't notice them but subconsciously they keep your attention. This is all probably because of how quickly they move between riffs as well. For example in the first song; those intro hits are only like 2 seconds long and the break at around the 1 minute mark is just to die for!

The first song also sounds a lot like Napalm Death; still Cripple Bastards but any fan of Napalm will hear it. Also, while on the topic of riffage and transitions; the dissonance in the notes is just terrific. It gives everything that classic, legendary, unsettling feel. Things like that go overlooked far to often. Choice riffage at :35 of Mondo Plastico BTW. It doesn't get much better than that fellow grind heads. You just gotta love that hot nasty bad ass tri-tone!

Another thing that is structured well in the tune-age is the vox! The vocal patterns really stand out and really add a lot to the riffs. You'll notice in the title track, and really all the tracks, that you have lower pitched vocals that growled more legato when there is a fast blast beat; and more staccato in the upbeat sections. This isn't true of all the songs, that would get boring, but there is a lot of truth to it. The best part of all the vocals however, is when they go back and forth between vocalists. It is orchestrated perfectly.

This is worth the listen even if you are not a fan of the genre. It is FAR from boring. These Italian grind experts prove their excellence in this gnarly release. The evidence is in the vocals transitions and riffs. And if you are one of those that believes that grind is talent-less obnoxious noise... then you and your Opeth sounding, melo death bullshit can fuck off somewhere. HA! But on a serious note, the promo description says it all, "Senza Impronte = total grindcore legends writing legendary grindcore...fucking CRIPPLE BASTARDS MOTHERFUCKER!"


90%


Favorite Tracks: Agony of a Reformed Band, Mondo Plastico 






P.S. - Sorry for my lack of posts recently. I have been extremely tied up with work and it has been very physically and mentally draining. But I didn't forget about you! 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Witchtrap - Vengeance Is My Name [2012]


Taking into consideration that I’m such an avid black/thrash fan (it probably being my favorite genre of all), I really wanted to give the new Witchtrap album a good listen. The first song struck me as mildly mediocre, and was slightly disappointed at how little ‘black metal’ it actually was. In fact, “Vengeance Is My Name” has little or no black metal traits at all, even though it goes around being labeled as such. No--Witchtrap are not black/thrash, let's clear that out right now. These Colombians are simply another retro-thrash act aiming to go big among millions of other retro-thrash bands, with thousands of new ones sprouting incessantly. And while they probably are better than most of said bands, there’s not much that “Vengeance Is My Name” actually had to offer, save the pervasive ‘fun’ and ‘headbangable’ factor, arguably bouncy and perhaps influenced more heavily by early German thrash than anything else.

Lately there’s been this weird retro-black/thrash thing going on, most notably in new bands like Witchaven, and this is the style that Witchtrap have adopted over time. I’d say that the latter is more old-school than the former, probably because of the razor-sharp riffing and the less overt new-school influences and derivative riffs. They've snatched a considerably catchy style that plays in the vein of various different forebears, namely the Teutonic thrash bands, early Metallica and some Venom; though less vicious than the Germans and more appealing to the retro-thrash crowd. I will say that most of the riffs found on here are quite catchy, fun and headbang-inducing, yet the songwriting isn’t always at its best and not as engaging as one may have wished. Riffs tend to get repeated a lot, but to their credit, a lot of them are catchy enough that they don’t get overly boring as the songs progress and play the same riffs over and over; and fortunately, there’s a nice addition of usually more-than-competent guitar leads, uplifting the band’s music.

The vocals aren’t, to my dismay, black metal rasps. They’re more of a cross between Schmier and Petrozza, honestly quite bland and not saturated with evil as much as with a thrasher attitude; aptly spoken and touching on various stereotypical black/thrash themes to drive along the lyrics. (Metal, evil, headbanging, anger and violence, etc. etc., you know the drill). While most of the album offers hardly original thrash traits, most of the riffs are catchy enough and there’s also a weird clean guitar thing that they had going on in “The Queen Of Hell”. As a whole, “Vengeance Is My Name” is not that varied nor original (at all), though it does flow nicely and offer some better tidbits on a few songs than others. And even though it has absolutely no black metal traits to make it all the better, I enjoyed what Teutonic-thrash influence it had in store, and did elicit occasional delighted headbanging on my part. Apart from that, however, this album has scarce memorability, serving as another offering of formulaic thrash that’s littering the scene, and when derivative songs like “Metal” came on, I was largely tempted to hit the ‘skip’ button and delete it. Worthy of staying in my music library, yet I fear it’ll be visited very rarely.

73/100

-SmithMetal84

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eternal Helcaraxe - Against All Odds [2012]


One cursory glance at the artwork of Eternal Helcaraxe’s debut album, “Against All Odds”, and the contents of the album can be easily surmised, if not right on the money. These Irish black metallers have been around since the early 2000’s, yet they didn’t release anything until 2008 with their “Palest Kingdom" demo. Tightly-knit songwriting with lots of modern elements, as well as perhaps the trademark sound for which Ireland keeps seeming to be associated (folk), raspy vocals, and you’ve pretty much got the entire album in a nutshell. “Against All Odds” definitely has its quite large pagan/folk elements, not only in the distorted guitars’ riffs but also in occasional acoustic sightings, which are done reasonably well, although probably a little too much; and it can be said that this record is typically partial to melodic tremolos that incite poignant emotions in the listener, serving its purpose dutifully and making up for that which the album lacked.

While I’m not generally fond of melodic riffing, that is probably the highlight that Eternal Helcaraxe harbor. Otherwise, their music could easily be waved off as stagnant and uninteresting, but fortunately they do put those melodic elements well into place. On top of this, the usual pagan/folk traits can easily be picked out from the polished chaos, augmented even further by the occasional use of synthesizers and acoustic guitar. Images of mighty Vikings and sailing ships are conjured from the style that Eternal Helcaraxe have, and it’s no doubt that that’s probably a snippet of what the lyrics deal with, judging by the album artwork. Several different modern characteristics can be spotted, primarily in the clean production, but also in some of the more progressive sequences that are heard here and there. These are fairly well executed, and provide more for their music so that it doesn’t stay at one place the entire time, but it’s honestly nothing knew and that hasn’t been done before. The vocals are predictable enough, akin to pretty much any other pagan black metal band you’ll hear these days; high, scraping rasps with no real substance nor special value to them, but they do their job well.

Eternal Helcaraxe’s debut full-length was probably a little too predictable, from my first glance at the artwork to some of the more predictable chords that can be heard quite often. That’s not to say that this was an overly bad effort, despite the lack of shining qualities that would improve the album, and there is an admitted variation throughout the 50-minute record. This is mostly in regards to the switching of paces, from either fast to less energetic and more progressive, but the variation is not exactly enough to salvage the album from mediocrity; there's also some orchestra arrangements, as in the end of "As The Snow Gathers". Fans of pagan black metal will duly find pleasure in this record, as will most fans of modern metal (there's some clean vocals in there too), and I recommend it to those who do not have a problem with hearing that which has already been done before, and better; not terrible, but not that good either.

60/100

-SmithMetal84

Monday, April 9, 2012

Emptiness - Error [2012]


This Belgian four-piece has been around since 1998, and since then they’ve released three albums with the addition of “Error”, which is to be released through Dark Descent Records in May of 2012. With “Error” they’ve delved into a much-too-treaded path that has been visited by numerous bands in the past, in which they believe that by repetition and simplistic arrays of notes they should be deemed artistic and/or thoughtful. That’s not a criticism, but rather, an observation, and it forces their music into a far more atmosphere-driven arena than their previous efforts. Brewing lots of heavy grooves and simplistic tremolo riffs, there are some evident similarities with the latest Enthroned album, two members of which also reside in Emptiness. That is to say, they have a corpulent guitar tone and heavy riffs, but unlike Enthroned, Emptiness typically tread along slower tempos and simpler arrangements/structures.

An ambient introduction in “Deafer” kicks off the album, and with that, a procession of warlike drums and incredibly groove-influenced riffs that ensue soon after. An admitted seamless transition between different segments in the song progresses the music forward smoothly, the guitars mellow (i.e. not very fast) and heavy under the deep growl of the vocalist. An almost jazzy influence can be heard throughout some of the even more mellow parts of songs, such as in the middle of the title track, and lots of atmospheric riffs play a key role in the style that they’ve snatched with this record. Usually these atmospheric riffs are played by tremolo riffs, and almost always accompanied by heavy chugging that, quite frankly, tires the listener. Other influences crop themselves up occasionally, such as a dissonant inclination with the guitars, especially with higher notes, but they never stray far from the groove-laden mid-paced riffs. Unfortunately, lots of superfluous elements are inducted as well, making for an elongated listen when in fact they could’ve made it much shorter. (An example, the track “Nothing”, which, coincidentally, does nothing).

The drums tend to make heavy use of toms and very snail-paced beats, never playing blast beats and sometimes using double bass; proving once more that Emptiness didn’t focus on speed and aggressiveness with this album. Typical characteristics of black/death metal (namely war metal) aren’t very prominent in “Error”, a dearth of chaotic and relentless blast beats burdening the music beneath the weight of the guitars, and it is quite obvious that Emptiness have strayed into a different style of black/death. Here they seem to be treading water half of the time, grooving with the guitars the rest of the time. To be honest, I’ve my doubts of the actual black/death ‘metalness’ of this album, as most of the time they seem to be performing grooves or chugs, and scarcely do they actually focus on the speed and brutality that’s often associated with said genre. All of the instruments do, however, have a certain correlation with each other; nevertheless, I found little else of note to be found on “Error”. Recommended for fans of groove metal, not black/death.

65/100

-SmithMetal84

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Septekh - The Seth Avalanche (EP) [2012]


The first thing that drew my attention about Septekh was their unusual cover art; a yellow/orange background with a rough sketch of a wolf of some sort in the front. Not only is it somewhat unorthodox in terms of typical metal cover arts, but it also gave a small peek into the band’s ambitions: to not completely rip off any one band and keep their style of death/thrash somewhat distinct from other acts’. This they achieved, branding a raw yet clean style of death/thrash that occasionally delves into a more blackened proclivity. That’s not to say that these guys are completely original either, because in this day and age that’s near impossible; but their style of death/thrash isn’t a clear rip-off of any particular band or previous style, and there’s even an almost punky feel that occasionally makes itself apparent throughout this 22-minute EP, making it that much more fun and entertaining.

There’s considerable variation in the EP, and I cannot honestly say that there weren’t some surprises here and there. The biggest of these, perhaps, was "Eating The Maneater". It goes along extremely bluesy riffs, and it’s admittedly catchy; hell, without the heavily distorted and corpulent guitars, I’d have a hard time considering this a metal track at all; and I mean that in a good way, because it’s probably been done little before. The rest of the tracks are definitely more ‘metal,’ all of them powerful, raw and provoking headbanging in the listener. And to their credit, a good chunk of the riffs are catchy; whether they’re mid-paced and chuggy (“Blunt Force To The Head”) or punky and fun (“Fuckslut From Hell”--this song is definitely a highlight). There are also some that bear similarities to retro-thrash bands, which can only be regarded as a detriment to their music, but luckily there’s not overly many of these. Regardless of what style they cleave to, however, all of the riffs on this EP are arguably powerful and fun, almost always succeeding in eliciting headbangs from the listener.

The vocals are harsh rasps mixed with low death growls, lending their music a more blackened thrash feel at times. The immense guitar tone and the clean production renders their music akin to modern metal, (unfortunately), and while these guys aren’t very old-school, they do retain an original sound and succeed in emitting a not-yet-prostituted style of death/thrash. I really like, however, the bluesy and punk riffs that these guys put into play occasionally, because they’re actually pretty damn fun, and that’s what make this EP distinct and separate from other bands--some of the songs actually lean more towards death ‘n‘ roll than death/thrash, which I'm not too fond of, but they make up for it. And the further in that I got into the EP, it kept coming back to me that their music is not at all what I had expected, which is a good thing; their unpredictability and their ability to surprise the listener with different styled segments. Sure, there are some mediocre riffs--as to be expected--and some instances where their music becomes a little too modern metal-y for my taste, but this remains a fairly fun EP overall.

70/100

-SmithMetal84

Friday, April 6, 2012

Diseim - Holy Wrath [2012]


Diseim, a fairly new death metal band, were formed in 2007 and, now signed with Abyss Records, are finally releasing their debut full-length, “Holy Wrath”. Their take on death metal isn’t exactly original, but it isn’t one that is often seen nowadays either, so they deserve to be credited for that. It’s comparable to both death/doom acts like Autopsy, as well as to more groove-laden death metal bands. These two styles are churned together and the resulting mutation gives way to lots of death grooves and doom paces, but there’s also some melodic influence thrown in occasionally, making for a varied result. Diseim’s clear ambition for drawing on their old-school roots is quite overt, and while they’re not an outright rip-off of any one band, they struggle putting their influences into good use.

What immediately stands out about Diseim is their incredibly dirty sound, both in the guitars and the vocals and their ability to fuse them into one grisly result. This often makes them sound far more old-school, and that works to their benefit most of the time. The riffs are considerably varied, and fluctuate often from slow to fast or heavy to melodic (usually in regards to songs, because a given song typically remains in the same style until the next). Most of the time they roam around at a doom-paced tempo, offering nothing that hasn’t heard before yet succeeding in coming off as admittedly old-school. A simplistic approach to both their songwriting and the riffs themselves drives them to a slightly stale sound, yet it is also this simplistic approach that makes their music all the better and more distinctive. Doom/death riffs are laced with grooves and melodic tendencies, as well as some eerie bent riffs ("Agony"), all played beneath the coarse rasp of the vocalist. Eventually their music gets relatively boring and repetitive, mostly because a lot of the tempos tend to be slower, but there are actually some memorable riffs thrown in between more mediocre ones.

The drums aren’t anything special in the album, burdened underneath the loud guitars/vocals and left to play simple drum beats that swing the music along. Overall, “Holy Wrath” is arguably quite a mixed bag in terms of genre and style, especially since Diseim can’t be earmarked into any one specific style of death metal. In theory this should be a great thing, and it certainly does give Diseim the advantage over a great many other bands, but the way they pull off all these styles isn’t particularly memorable, unfortunately. It’s quite evident that these guys are still rookies in the scene, and perhaps with a few more years in their catalog they could achieve something more worth the listen, but “Holy Wrath” remains a fairly amateurish debut. I will hand it to them, however, for keeping my attention most of the time, and varying their sound here and there to make it all more interesting and refreshing. Until next time, Diseim.

68/100

-SmithMetal84

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Impiety - Ravage & Conquer [2012]


Impiety already have a substantial enough discography behind them, forming in 1990 and releasing seven full-length albums since then, this being their eighth. They’re known for having numerous line-up changes, and stylistic changes as well. Last year’s “Worshippers Of The Seventh Tyranny” saw them shifting toward a more progressive outlet, with only one song on the entire album reaching almost forty minutes. This year they’ve decided to change their style once again, going for an all-out blackened death metal attack rather than progressive. Some of their long-lasting traits are still cleaved heavily to, such as their inclination for extremely fast drums and heavy guitars, and their songs are still quite long (the longest being eight minutes), but there’s not as much progressiveness in this album as there was on its predecessor; albeit there are still some not-so-conventional characteristics throughout.

The album kicks off with “Revelation Decimation”, building up a long intro with strange horn sounds and a catchy enough intro riff. The drums showcase once more their affinity for powerful and incredibly fast blast beats, driving the music forward at an exponential rate. Two minutes into the song, they put on display what the whole album is about to offer: speed and relentlessness. The guitars play fast tremolos, mixed with chugging grooves and some more straightforward riffing that’s often seen in blackened death metal. There’s some experimentation with the guitars in the title track, a weird guitar effect making its way through and changing the sound of the guitars . With all this speed and intensity Impiety show their clear love for Polish death metal, especially for bands like Behemoth, with whom they bear a huge resemblance. There’s some catchy riffs here and there, but more often than not their music is dominated by fast tremolos and relentless drumming. The vocals are honestly quite bland, gruff and harsh growls that lay lower in the mix. In addition, incoherence places a strong presence in their music, as the songwriting constantly undergoes different structures and changes; and put bluntly, makes it sound as if not much thought was put into the songwriting process.

I have to say that their music is honestly quite vapid. While they focus heavily on the brutality and intensity, there’s not much else left to offer the listener, and he gets left feeling quite worn out at the end. Boredom and itchiness often emerges from the constant repetitiveness and the incessant speed, having practically no traits that make the band stand out in any way. And despite the constant changes in riffs, there’s very little variation or uplifting traits that can help keep the listener’s attention, and unfortunately their love for all that is fast and ‘brutal’ does not bode particularly well for them. The trio have definitely shown that they have the skill and the speed to play blackened death, but other than that, there’s honestly nothing special about “Ravage & Conquer”. I will say, however, that Behemoth fans will absolutely drool over this; but I came out unimpressed.

57/100

-SmithMetal84

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anhedonist - Netherwards [2012]


The past few years have manifested a massive movement of bands that worship either the catchy and pounding style of Swedish death metal or the doom-driven aesthetics first seen in bands like Autopsy. Anhedonist can definitely be earmarked into the latter, as they have a substantially doomy aura, even more so than Autopsy; in fact, they have little to nothing of the energy that Autopsy gave off with Reifert’s penchant for fast-paced rhythm sections mixed together with doom-laden segments. Granted, Anhedonist have a few headbangable moments here and there (even though even these are quite slow), but they have a much more sludgy and miry feel to their music, and frankly almost never care to speed up the tempo. While they could definitely use some uplifting speeds, Anhedonist put such personality into their music that their over-use of heavy and burdening doom never seems to be a problem; rather, it’s actually their best trait (and their only one, at that).

To my surprise, there are only four tracks on the entire record, each roaming around or over the ten minute mark sans one. To my even bigger surprise, this doesn’t stop Anhedonist from producing considerably entertaining death/doom, and while yes, it does tend to drag on for too long sometimes, it has its great moments; and eventually you just get sucked into the mire enough to draw sick pleasure from the whole experience. The songwriting itself flows nicely, combining the occasional eerie melodies with chunky and slow riffs, these tending to slog for usually more than is needed. The riffs are murky and squalid both in themselves and in the way that they’re played, hardly pushed forward by the lazy drumming that serves its purpose as an insignificant facet of their music (though, there’s a couple blast beats thrown in). Anhedonist fortunately provide a good amount of variation, despite my previous bashings; there’s a few moments of tremolo catchiness woven together with the domineering, cumbersome doom riffs, and there’s also some melancholy laced in for good measure, as in the intro to “Estrangement”.

The vocals emit a dark and cryptic tangibility, tortured shrieks that vary greatly from highs to lows and prevail in the yawning ambiance. I cannot help but notice the occasional resemblance (especially in lower registers) to the vocals of Hellvetron, a band I reviewed a while ago that rendered me similarly downtrodden as I emerged with the closing of Anhedonist’s “Netherwards”. Of course a lot that’s on this album has been heard before, and there’s the inevitable and detrimental use of a few very familiar chord progressions, but these aside, there’s more originality to their music than there is the opposite, a lot of it refreshing and pleasantly harrowing. All in all, “Netherwards” is certainly a good achievement, as Anhedonist have succeeded in entertaining all throughout a four-track 40-minute death/doom record, with minimal use of boring repetition, and even this entertaining the listener hypnotically. Unforgiving.

80/100

-SmithMetal84

Embrional - Absolutely Anti-Human Behaviors [2012]


Bands like Vader, Behemoth, and Decapitated dominate the Polish death metal scene, yet there are other, lesser known bands who produce finely formulated death metal from Poland as well; Embrional being one of them. Emitting a clear partiality for technical prowess and complex guitar sequences, this four-piece focuses less on the raw aspect of death metal and leans more toward the brutality and the technicality, the latter becoming the biggest trait of their music. That’s not to say that they are outright tech-death like Decapitated or Necrophagist (a genre of which I’m not particularly fond of), because they balance the scale of technicality/brutality/rawness nicely, and don’t overdo it with either of those. Perhaps it’s wrong to say ‘rawness,’ because quite frankly, their music is refined and considerably polished, and there’s not much ‘raw’ death metal to go around, if any at all.

Embrional are clearly influenced by some of the more technically proficient in the genre, and while they’re driven toward lots of modern characteristics and tendencies, most notably the overall ‘brutality’ of their music, they are still able to retain some of that old-school vibe that crops itself up on occasion. Not unlike thousands of other retro tech-death bands that have been emerging incessantly of late, Embrional take their death metal and kick it up a few notches, i.e. keep the speed and intensity at a considerably high level. Most of the riffs are fast and concise tremolos, save some eerie melodies here and there and some more awkward picking styles. They’re driven madly by the drums, which play quite a large role in the music (also a common trait in newer bands - the mistaken belief that the drummer has to be blindingly fast) and very, very rarely slow down the speed. Embrional are also quite fond of those melodies I mentioned (riff after intro to “Bestial Torture”, among millions more), where they unleash quick bursts of tremolos, and perhaps they even overstay their welcome somewhat; chuggy and dissonant spurts of speed… these are thrown all over the place, and honestly get tiring after a while.

The vocalist’s harsh gutturals are yet another similarity that Embrional share with modern bands, vapid and commonplace growls that do little for their music. Luckily they’re not overbearingly loud in the mix, and all the instruments are equally loud in the mix, providing for a balanced result. Despite my distaste for tech-death bands and how easily boredom can arise from their music, Embrional actually mix in little enough of that technicality to make their music fairly interesting, and switch up styles often enough to keep my attention. For some reason, however, I keep leaning away from their more technical songs and keep coming back to “Necropolis”, one of the two instrumentals on the record, that reminds me of the weird tremolos that are present in some of the more unique and strange bands of the genre, namely Portal. Overall, though, “Absolutely Anti-Human Behaviors” is a swift achievement and a solid effort, and many people should enjoy listening to their music. And even though they play nothing that hasn’t been played before, they avoid sounding like a complete copy of any one band, so for that I congratulate them.

73/100

-SmithMetal84

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fester - A Celebration of Death [2012]


Originally known as Heroic Conduct and formed in 1989, I know little about the Norwegian four-piece that is Fester. Apparently they’ve been around for quite a while already, so they’re no newcomers to the scene, but I have not listened to anything previous of theirs. “A Celebration of Death” is actually their third full-length album, having had a period of absence since the release of their second full-length in 1994. In 2010 these Norwegians released a compilation album, and two years later, “A Celebration of Death” was released upon the masses. Fester play a peculiar and rather distinct style of death metal, mixing in a strong doom influence with their overall raw death metal atmosphere. In place of fast blast beats and furious, crushing guitars, here lie dark riffs laced melancholy and a prevailing doom ambiance. Now signed with Abyss Records, Fester have released an interesting album where dark riffs and a filthy style of black/death infused with a lot of doom creates a disparate sound, even though most of it has been heard before. It is simply the way that they play it that makes it different.

Fester obviously focus on the more atmospheric side of metal rather than the speed and the aggression, and it clearly shows on the album. Their dark and somber riffs work in unison with the agony-filled and gravelly, harsh vocals to create a more palpable result, and when taking into account their love for very doom-paced slow speeds, it makes all the more sense. There is also an overt industrial influence they draw from, especially evident in the jazzy drumming and some of their more awkward riff styles that pop up from time to time. The industrial influence is further accentuated by the production of the album and the sound of the guitars, in addition to the way they actually play their riffs. (Intro to “I'll Hunt You Down” is especially industrial, or “Jeg spytter på deg”). There’s not very much variation, however, and most of their riffs keep along that same doomy black/death style. After about midway through the album, their music starts to get increasingly boring and uninteresting as it progresses until the end; they probably would’ve benefited from some small increase in speed, at least.

Fester rely on heavy repetition to render their specifically brooding sound, and even though they capture it successfully, it causes their music to be extremely redundant. Especially on the longer tracks of the album, Fester often tend to drag out some of their riffs and keep them going at the same sludgy pace for much more time than is actually needed. As a result, the inevitable effect is that of a listener getting itchy for the pace to grow just a little bit faster, as it did with me. Songs like “March of Death” get extremely tiring after about the first three minutes, let alone the five more that remain. All in all, however, “A Celebration of Death” has definitely achieved as intended, and it’s by no means a generic album, for which I duly credit the band. Long-time fans of Fester will surely find pleasure in this, after having waited since 1994 for another album… and people like me will probably be quite surprised at what Fester have to offer, since their take on black/death bears little resemblance to other bands of the genre.

68/100

-SmithMetal84

Terrorizer - Hordes of Zombies [2012]


Terrorizer are easily one of the most revered grindcore/death metal bands in the history of metal, and all because of their tremendous and earth-shattering debut, “World Downfall”. They’re praised for this album the world over; and rightly so. It is perhaps one of the best of its kind, one of the most monumental and ahead of its time, and probably one of the greatest grindcore albums ever, even. In fact, the band had broken up prior to its release, and recorded the album after already having split up. In 2005, Jesse and Pete decided to come together and reform Terrorizer, releasing their second studio album, “Darker Days Ahead”, a year later. This album was a whopping disappointment for fans, and that same year, Jesse died of alleged diabetes. And now, six years later, Pete remains the only original member in the band, recruiting David Vincent for bass duties once again, “Hordes of Zombies” their third full-length to date. I’ll come right out and say it now to spare you the time: it’s a huge disappointment. It’s stale and boring, and it’s nowhere near the magnitude and prestige that “World Downfall” had achieved.

I will say that this album is overall an improvement on “Darker Days Ahead”. The guitars are mercifully fast and almost always tremolos, but apart from that, they don’t have anything good about them. The riffs are for the most part boring and bland. Apart from a few segments here and there where the guitars take the liberty of differentiating even a little from the rest of the album, for example at the ending of “Evolving Era,” where the guitars strum mellow notes, or “Subterfuge” with its fun intro riff, the whole album is pretty much a copy of its own self. There’s very few riffs that do anything different from the rest of the record, so the result is an unvaried 38-minute long song with very, very little to offer. In addition, most of the riffs play along to ridiculously predictable and familiar note progressions, ones that have been heard at least a million times before. Yes, this is a grindcore album, where a lack of variation is to be expected, but if the riffs had been at least all similar but something completely different than what is heard on your typical grindcore album, they would’ve been much more enjoyable and tolerable. That is not the case, however, as here they have pulled a double whammy, where the riffs are both extremely similar to themselves and extremely similar to riffs that have been heard millions of times before.

The most interesting part of the album is by far the drumming. Pete Sandoval has still got it, his back is now perfectly stable, and he flaunts his ability on this record. He still keeps in touch with what he did on “World Downfall”, frantic thrash beats sharing the stage with manic blast beats and concise, chaotic yet controlled drum fills. He alone is the sole good aspect of new Terrorizer, but unfortunately his fantastic drumming is not enough to redeem the album as a whole. His double bass abilities are still mind-blowing, and he shows this often throughout. He keeps up the pace at a blindingly fast tempo throughout the entire album, the guitars always on par with him, but the guitars are honestly far less interesting than the drumming. Granted, Pete Sandoval has always been considered one of the drummer gods in the metal scene, whether they see him in his main band Morbid Angel or side projects like this one, but he is still arguably as good as he was back in the day… and it works to Terrorizer’s advantage. But I digress.

Another facet that “Hordes of Zombies” suffers from is the vocals. On “World Downfall”, they had an aggressive edge to them, were far more diverse, and offered a more interesting value than the current vocalist, Anthony Rezhawk. He always keeps the vocals at about the same tone, very rarely going a little higher or lower, usually doing so in correlation with the guitars. They’re stale and uninteresting to say the least, low death growls with no real substance to them.  “Darker Days Ahead” had also suffered from this same problem, and fortunately the vocals are now mixed at a more tolerable level. Admittedly, they have improved somewhat since its predecessor, but are still nothing to call home about. After about the fourth or fifth song Anthony’s vocals become almost a given, but not in a good way. Occasionally I felt my mind wandering off in boredom as his vocals continued along the same tone and mundane deliverance, and more often than not I found myself ignoring them altogether.

In conclusion, “Hordes of Zombies” is indeed a new effort by the band. At least it’s an effort, but alas, it is not one worth receiving praise. It is certainly an improvement on the abysmal “Darker Days Ahead”, but it remains miles behind what “World Downfall” had to offer, and my guess is Terrorizer will never match that album’s magnitude. I have probably compared this album too much to “World Downfall”, which is an unfair assessment; but even if considering “Hordes of Zombies” a standalone record, it really doesn’t offer anything special either. Perhaps there will be some people that will find good in this, but after having listened to it several times, I can conclusively say that this is a genuinely bad album. While there are some riffs, albeit very, very scarcely, that are more interesting than others, there are many more riffs that are completely dull and have nothing special that they hold to themselves. The whole album contains riffs of persistent boredom and they‘re all pretty much the same. I couldn’t even find it in me to even headbang, hardly at all throughout the entire record. Sorry, Terrorizer. Maybe next time.

58/100

-SmithMetal84

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Album of The Month - March 2012

This is the first in a line of monthly posts where I will promote the album I thought deserved to claim first place as the official Album of The Month. These are only going to be albums that I actually listened to, reviewed, and posted that review on this blog, so if you thought another album had deserved to win as opposed to the one I chose, I either didn't review it or simply didn't deem it good enough to win the title. Also, the winners will be albums that were released in the month that I am actually writing this in, e.g. if album A was released in June but I reviewed it prior to its release--let's say May--it will be the winner of the month of June, not the opposite. If there was, however, an EP or a demo that I liked better than any of the albums released in a given month, then that release, even if it is not technically an album, will win the title.

I'd also like to say that this month I haven't reviewed as many albums as I would have liked, and I probably missed some that could potentially have won first place, so I apologize if I skipped over one; I will get to reviewing these in the near future, and hopefully I'll catch up to all the albums that are on my waiting list.

So, without further ado, here is the winner for the month of March...

Enthroned - Obsidium


Not only was "Obsidium" a genuinely good, if not great, album, it was a big surprise considering I have never been a fan of Enthroned. They have really demonstrated here, though, that they have the talent to produce a good black metal album, and it's clearly evident in"Obsidium". They have a way of fusing relentlessly fast parts that segue into slower, somber and/or poignantly melodic passages, and making it all fit together like glue. In addition, this record has pretty much all of the variation you could want in a black metal release. This album truly deserves the spot, and if perchance you missed the review, click here. Well done, Enthroned; and to all of you out there reading this, be sure to support these Belgians by purchasing the album.

-SmithMetal84

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dodecahedron - Dodecahedron [2012]


In recent years, there has been a sudden emergence of orthodox black metal and some fantastic acts that brand that genre on their shoulders. Among these, and definitely the most well-known of the bunch, is Deathspell Omega. Their latest full-length, “Paracletus,” is without a doubt one of the most groundbreaking albums that orthodox black metal, let alone black metal itself, has yet to unearth. Beyond this band, however, Dodecahedron is another act that have been brave enough to attempt a hit at this incredibly formidable style of black metal, and they’ve pulled it off pretty damn well, following along the same path as DSO. Hailing from the Netherlands, a country that offers death metal in the likes of Pestilence and Asphyx, Dodecahedron have been around since 2006, and through Season of Mist, have released their debut self-titled. A 50-minute journey of mind-churning black metal proportions, “Dodecahedron” is an album that will further develop the possibilities in BM and expand monumentally, though not so much as DSO, in what black metal had turned into once the second wave had been inaugurated and once that genre had become trite, overused, and, bluntly put, awful.

Just as thousands of acts had been spawned in the 90’s and on, imitating the forerunners in the second wave, and proving to be no more than lame facsimiles of the originals, (in most cases), so too have Dodecahedron emerged from the ashes that “Paracletus” has swept across the earth. That’s not to say that they’re simply a copy or a rehash of DSO, as the orthodox/avant-garde genre is still quite fresh and new, but they don’t match up to its influence, one that has set the tide at the highest level of black metal intellectuality and proved that it is, in fact, possible to branch off from a genre’s common factor and still thrive in musical genius; perhaps even surpassing many, if not most, of the genre’s originals. The French are at the top of the game at the current time for avant-garde black metal, and they’re setting the standard of excellence toward which subordinating bands should aim. Dodecahedron are clearly influenced by “Paracletus” and unfortunately add little to what it had to offer, but this record is easily still incredibly original in comparison to the oceans of simple-headed BM bands, and its members are all undeniably talented and musically proficient.

“Allfather,” the opening track on the album that releases spurts of darkened aural energy, is not merely a song; it’s a statement. A statement screaming of pain and agony, of malaise and torture, of the dark arts, blackened beliefs and slithering, eerie creatures of the underground hellish mires. It’s a statement inside which there lies a 6-minute endeavor of raspy, poignant BM vocals and dissonant guitars, of a night painted black that tears in the sky and unleashes upon the world hundreds of thousands of gruesome creatures that lurk into the listener’s ear and bomb it with powerful blast beats and cacophonous, atonal riffs. At around the middle of the song there comes around a break where the bass is left to shine along with the jazzy, dynamic drums; lasting hardly at all and bursting into incredibly powerful blasts of double bass soon after; and combinations of tremolos on one guitar and eerie sounds on the other. The rest of the songs continue along similarly, all bearing their individual merits and distinctions from the rest; be it a change in speed or an increase in an evil and morbid atmosphere, the latter of which can be heard in the interlude “Descending Jacob's Ladder,” where sways of vocals and harrowing sounds compose a wholly tormenting experience. Fucking hell, that is one scarring hell of a track. Listen at your own risk. (In addition to its horrific entertainment and terror that it ignites in you, it provides a nice twist on the album as a whole and adds variation).

A single underlying thread nips a clean hole through each one of the songs; all of which are almost identical in nature but surprisingly different, refreshing and varied when taken apart and inspected one by one. The production on the record is crisp, so each instrument is clearly audible and has its own moments of glory. The vocals are guttural, raspy and vibrant utterances that spit acid with them and enrich the quality of the album. Aside from the dissonant riffs that Dodecahedron put into play, there are other interesting nuances heard throughout, namely a few fast tremolos, and riffs here and there that carry a certain sadness to them (intro to “View from Hverfell II: Inside Omnipotent Chaos”). (Most of the variation is heard on the latter tracks, all of which belong to a “View from Hverfell” theme). However, they never stray far from that pervasive orthodox style of black metal. “Dodecahedron” is a fantastic achievement by a band that has a bright--or more accurately, dark--future ahead of them and I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear what more this band has in store for the metal audience.

88/100

-SmithMetal84

Borknagar - Urd [2012]


“Urd” being my first encounter with the black/folk act Borknagar, I approached this album with mild trepidation and reluctant curiosity. I’m not one to praise black/folk metal, as I find it some of the cheesiest, least interesting type of metal there is; however, it goes around--usually--receiving good reviews and considerable admiration among metal circles. Perhaps this is because some think that if you can successfully fuse two completely separate genres into one, you’re incredibly talented and musically erudite; or perhaps they’ve simply gotten sick of the overly mimicked black metal sound and enjoy the certain amount of originality that if offers; whatever. Either way, it’s arguably revered quite heavily and Borknagar are sure to fall under that same radar. The band is currently comprised of six members, and this is their ninth studio album to date, having been formed in 1995 and since then been releasing only full-lengths sans one compilation album.

Borknagar do deserve praise in the sense that they know how to write interesting song structures. This is immediately clear after the first song, “Age of Creation,” rolls into view. With six members available to constantly contribute more ideas and suggestions for their songs, this is hardly surprising, but it’s something that Borknagar excel at. They seamlessly ebb and flow smoothly through different segments in their songs and keep the interest level in fairly respectable ground. Catchy pop melodies are quite common, especially in the choruses, and these are seen alongside occasional use of tremolo passages and some faster segments. Once these faster parts come along, the drummer injects fast double bass work that tumbles with the guitars. All of the instruments play a role in the album and a voluminous aesthetic is one of Borknagar’s main concerns, introducing lots of keyboards and other rather superfluous instruments quite often. The guitars are usually kept at a relatively slow pace (that's not to say always), strumming along lazily to predictable note progressions and melodic chords. Occasionally, as heard in the first song, an acoustic guitar will come into the table and soothe the listener into a calm, serene state that screams of what I’ll now call “pop” metal. None of this is any less than you should expect from a folk/black metal album, though, as these aspects are actually quite common in the genre.

A tendency to make more use of clean vocals than their raspy counterpart is unfortunately one of their music’s worst detriments. I’m not one to criticize a band for their vocals, but Borknagar’s long and drawn-out use of these gets honestly quite annoying after about the second song or so. They are, however, good at adding variation into their music and any listener who picks this up will not suffer from any sort of immense repetition and monotony. Unfortunately, there is just something about their music that doesn’t click with me, and I emerged well over the point of being underwhelmed; in fact, I did not like this album at all. I'm close to hating it, and halfway through the listening process, I felt tempted to toss it into the shredder. That being said, it should be mentioned that any fan of black/folk metal will absolutely love this, and I credit the band for not relying on only one style throughout the whole album. Oh, and on a side note, I absolutely hate that they decided to cover a terrible song from a band that I respect not in the slightest; yes, Metallica. I am shaking my head in utter disdain as I write these very words.

55/100

-SmithMetal84

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weregoat - Unholy Exaltation of Fullmoon Perversity [2011]


Weregoat are among the few black/death metal bands in modern times that not only put their Blasphemy and Archgoat influences clear into play, but manage to create a set of songs that sure, aren’t anything original nor groundbreaking, but are qualitatively proficient and very much worth lending an ear to. A palpable sense of evil and oozing darkness is largely present in their music, both in their grinding riffs and in the bleak, threatening and ominous atmosphere that their songs and the production emit. A three-piece band with silly stage names, “Unholy Exaltation of Fullmoon Perversity” is their debut EP, reigning supreme among their lesser adversaries. While it is quite obvious that these bastards focus on the outright malevolence and utterly unforgiving aspect of black/death (aka war) metal, this 25-minute EP proves to be all that plus more, perhaps sharing more similarities with Archgoat than with any other band.

The cavernous guitar tone agrees with the style of music that Weregoat play, and it elevates that sense of protruding foulness that has become such a standard and a niche in black/death metal bands. The riffs are all catchy in their own right, and all come together to form to-the-point tunes that end just as quickly as they had come. As Archgoat have in their music, so too do Weregoat have lots of controlled variation and different-styled chapters of fast/mid-paced/slow/fast again/etc. etc. riffs. Some doomy riffs that are left to reverberate arrays of menacing chords are sat together next to earsplitting tremolo passages, and these go back and forth to provide for an alternated outcome (it should be said, however, that there are more tremolos than doomy riffs to go around). For example, “Invoke the Black Oblivion” is most likely the doomiest track on the EP, and it’s followed by “Blackwinged Abominator,” a tumbling beast of vicious blast beat savagery, and similarly, it’s preceded by “Abysmal Whore,” a song that starts off with ephemeral doom in its intro, and soon segues into blast beats and oppressive, catchy, fast riffs.

There are some crusty riffs in there as well, perched on top of incredibly raw and bloody mutilations of satanic worship and filth. The vocals are bestial howls and growls of black/death primacy that echo off the walls of their music, working in perfect unison with the vile guitars. You can just picture the poisonous gas of the vocals emanating from dark metal grilles and working their way into the listener’s ears, despite the focus being placed mostly on the guitars. “The Hideous Stench of Occult Slaughter” is about as perfect a description of their music as you’re going to get; and if you’re a long-time black/death metal fan, this is EP isn’t going to surprise you in the least. It'll definitely satisfy you, though, and linger into the core of your blackened, loathing heart. Overall, this is a superb EP, one that stamps their name on my “bands to watch out for” list, and opens up their future to a path that admittedly has been followed before, but one that Weregoat have merely stepped foot upon and are yet to encumber.

85/100

-SmithMetal84

Monday, March 26, 2012

Banished From Inferno - Minotaur [2011]


Alongside their companions in Graveyard, Banished From Inferno hail from Spain, a country that’s currently offering some considerably good death metal in the vein of old Swedish death metal masters. (Not to mention Teitanblood, who play some of the most evil black/death I’ve heard in a good long while). Banished From Inferno don’t stray far from this influence, playing extremely aggressive death metal that isn’t only influenced by bands such as Dismember, so in this sense their take on DM is more interesting and varied than that of loads of other bands that are cheaply rehashing the Swedeath sound. The four members that comprise the band are no newcomers to the metal scene, as some of them have been or are in bands like Wormed, Graveyard, and Machetazo, all of which are worth checking out. Banished From Inferno’s vicious, groove-laden death metal style that links Swedeath but also introduces their own little preferences and elements sets them apart from other bands today, and puts them in line for having a promising future; it’s a shame more people aren’t even aware of their existence, and their debut full-length was largely overlooked in 2011.

After a two-minute long intro song, what listeners will immediately notice is that Banished From Inferno are far heavier than your typical Swedeath-worshipping band. The Swedish influence is, as first, only present in the production, dominated by a corpulent guitar tone and a heavy sound overall. A blast beat introduces the album and rolls into fast double-bass work, pounding on the listener restlessly and soon enough being met by the highly entertaining morbid and evil death growls brought about by the vocalist. These are a standout on the album, and once they come into play, the listener will no doubt find himself headbanging ferociously. Banished From Inferno also allow for a heavy groove influence to match up their whole sound, mixing together with occasional mid-paced tempos to absolutely crush the listener. Chaotic death metal is what BFI are all about; and they do more than a good job in beating the listener into a bloody pulp, with the vocals constantly spewing venom and the guitars strumming along to different-styled riffs that make for a varied result. Quick little guitar solos can also be heard on some of the songs--“Fall Eternal (The Lengian Chronicles – chapter I)” has fantastic solos--and some eerie melodies are also seen throughout (“Purgatory Drains”).

In place of a prominent, exclusively d-beat driven style (although there are some d-beats played sporadically), the drums are always switching things up, as are the guitars. Blast beats are commonplace on this album, as well as mid-paced mosh beats (“Praise the Rotten Dead” or “Minotaur,” the latter being one hell of a track) that trot along nicely with the heavy guitars. Banished From Inferno usually sound like a cross between Bolt Thrower grooves/grindcore/brutal-ish death metal, and you can work it out for yourself that that would result in a wholly devastating bastard of an album. “Minotaur” is all-around extremely solid in all of its facets, and instead of listening to outright Swedeath-whores, you’re better off listening to this album. It flows extremely nicely, working its way up with alternations of fast tracks/mid-paced grooves and having a rewarding variety in its songs, as well as melodies seen here and there. If you’re a fan of manic, vile, pounding and aggressive death metal, you won’t be at all disappointed.

88/100

-SmithMetal84

Infera Bruo - Infera Bruo [2011]


Infera Bruo reign from the United States, namely Boston, Massachusetts, and are a currently unsigned three-piece black metal outfit with a lot to offer. Comparable to many bands and styles as they fuse great variation into their music, they are easily one of the more prolific bands rising from the underground metal scene. They exceed especially in their ability to immerse the listener in interesting and creative patterns, fluctuating constantly yet coherently and taking the listener on an epic journey of fantastic songwriting and talented musicianship. This is both their debut release overall, having released no previous EP’s nor demos, and debut self-titled full-length, an anomaly of striking talent to have risen silently from hordes of sub-par mimicry that is currently being brewed and depreciated by untalented, lazy, and less creative circles. That’s not to say that they’re creating a whole new genre either, because they’re not, but they certainly do a lot with their music, and it shows.

The very first riff on the album demonstrates what Infera Bruo excel at; and that’s the creation of abrasive melodies that, playing along discordant patterns and chords, succeed in engulfing the listener into a black abyss of miserable, bleak feelings. Their riffs have a strangely appealing zeal, be it their more melodious, swaying patterns or their more punishing tremolo riffs; of which I consider the latter to be a far better characteristic of their music. The vocals are high and raspy, nothing uncommon in black metal, but in addition to these they make use of clean, soaring vocals. These usually come about when the guitars are doing something less threatening, when solemn riffs cover the background while the vocals come into play up front. The first band that these clean, melodious vocals bring to mind is Opeth; but Infera Bruo’s use of them is better executed and less… corny. Infera Bruo’s music can also be described as progressive, because lots, if not most, of their riffs aren’t your typical black metal ones, but reminiscent of more progressive black metal bands like Enslaved, and yes, some Opeth (even though they’re not black metal). I repeat, though, that Infera Bruo excel when they’re focusing on the aggression, hostility, relentless anger in contrast to when they inject substantially progressive elements into their music.

In addition to all of the styles that have already been mentioned, there’s the occasional use of melodies a la Dissection, and some slightly thrashy/eerie riffs to be heard as well. Their songwriting skills are incredible, and well worth praising. Without the use of thousands of different riffs and patterns, they are able to create immense songs of great musical magnitude. The guitars are mainly responsible for this, but the other instruments flow along nicely as well. All of their songs are quite lengthy, all save one being nine minutes long, and every single one of them has a full-circle feeling in their developments; meaning, despite their length, they all captivate the listener and bring about a satisfying feeling as they progress through many different segments. Infera Bruo are no doubt among the more talented bands that are rising today, and hopefully their music will get the praise that it deserves, because instead of following along the same vein as thousands of other black metal bands and playing either only raw, abrasive black metal or only DSBM, etc. etc., they fuse a little bit of both, and inject other certain elements that uplift their music’s quality. Very much worth getting.

86/100

-SmithMetal84

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Adrenalin O.D. - Humungousfungusamongus EP [1986]

Underrated old school hardcore punk out of New Jersey! 


A.O.D. is a punk band that existed from 1981 til about 1990 and put out some hard hitting fast paced punk music with very humorous lyrics and song titles. You can really hear the east coast flavor in this gem with a sound that resembles some Black Flag and the Bad Brains but without being a copy of the 2. This is a childhood favorite of mine and is definitely something any fan on the genre should pick up. Especially if you are a fan of any kind of crossover as well.

The CD begins with a song comically entitled "A.O.D. vs. the Son of Godzilla" and starts off slow and quickly picks up the speed. This could easily be what anyone else would call an intro track. It honestly sounds a bit like old school Suicidal Tendencies. Then comes a personal favorite track Office Buildings; the hardcore punk upbeat flavor really shows here! The vocals are fast and the energy is up there. The next few tracks that follow are similar and then something happens around commercial cuts that really twists things up.  It turns into more of a party punk thing that sounds similar to LA's Wasted Youth. Still really great but the tracks that follow are somewhat all the same. They aren't terrible by any means but it keeps it from being a perfect old school punk album.

The energy is here in this bad mother. Recommend this to everyone who listen to any kind of music really but doesn't mind the lo-fi if you get my drift. If these guys would have kept at it through all the years they could have easily reached legendary status among the punk crowd. Even though they probably already have. The next reunion show better be a full world tour.


87%


Favorite Tracks: Office Buildings, Yuppie, Pope on a Rope, Pizza n Beer, Fuck the Neighbors!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pharaoh - Bury The Light [2012]


Pharaoh have been around for over ten years already, and “Bury the Light” being my first encounter with this band, I have no basis for comparison to their older material, but what I can say with absolute certainty is that Pharaoh are delivering some of the best power metal of late, and “Bury the Light” is sure to become the greatest power metal album of 2012 (if not among the some of the best of the entire 21st century). With extremely tight musicianship and songwriting, their devotion and love toward their music is indisputable, and all of the four members in this band contribute their part to create a fantastic album and deliver their absolute best. Traits of the mighty power metal of the 80s are present in this USPM band’s fourth full-length to date, with creative melodies and solid musicianship, yet they infuse some progressive thrash influences into their riffing as well.

In addition to the fantastic and concise riffing brought about by the talented guitarist (who assumes all guitarist responsibilities on this record) Matt Johnsen, the vocals are easily the second if not the best facet on this album. Tim Aymar’s incredibly powerful voice delivers spiraling vocals with a talented range and great strength to them, and he does so much for the album without which “Bury the Light” would not have turned out such a great result in the first place. As great and powerful as they are, though, they in no way outshine the equally talented guitar work that Johnsen can be praised for. There’s a lot of variation--as to be expected and required from a power metal album--with thrashier tracks seen amongst melodic tunes and some more anthem-y/cheesy choruses (after all, what’s a power metal album without some of these, anyway?) Thankfully, the use of modern melodies isn’t overly nor overbearingly prominent here, as can be seen in the first few tracks that bring about with them a thrashier and more headbangable quality. The lead work is also praise-worthy, hard to match in this day and age and undeniably creative with fast picking and sweeping patterns. Most of the riffs on this album are memorable and catchy, very rarely having sub-par tracks, and even the worst on the album having decent riffs.

With “Bury The Light,” Pharaoh prove to be one of the best power metal acts today, and this record is probably going to make a lot of year-end lists for 2012. Beside the guitars and vocals, the drums are always fast and ferocious, perhaps the robust double bass work being their most stand-out trait. The only instrument on this album that doesn’t stand out among their companions is the bass guitar, yet it’s still respectable. The entire album flows exceptionally well and has lots of variety, retaining an old-school feel to it even if it has lots of modern metal traits. Pharaoh have definitely delivered with this album; its quality, authenticity and sturdy musicianship is irrefutable; any power metal fan is sure to like this--scratch that. Any power/heavy metal fan must get their hands on this and see for themselves what Pharaoh have accomplished in the year 2012, where quality power metal is a rare sight indeed.

85/100

-SmithMetal84

Prosanctus Inferi - Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitations [2010]


Prosanctus Inferi are perhaps one of the more interesting black/death bands that are releasing material today. While many other bands focus on the brutality and pounding ferocity that was first shown in bands like Blasphemy, Prosanctus Inferi lean towards more complex riffing and awkward structures. The duo obviously have their roots absorbed deep within black metal soil, because there’s less death metal that goes around on this album, and when it does show itself up, it’s always conjured in its most evil and vile form, a la Incantation. With the vocals drowned out almost completely, the task of performing their music is left to the guitars and drums, both of which play an immense role in the development of the record. Despite the short songs (never going over the three minute mark), they cram up lots of material into individual tunes, making for lots of different things going on and seemingly being all over the place as “Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitations” tumbles and fights through hostile and barbaric war ground.

The cover art is a perfect representation of what their music sounds like: i.e. awkward riffing with lots of different phases in songs, sounding at times a bit incoherent and out of place. Thankfully, as previously stated, all of the songs are kept at a short length, so the listener won’t be left entirely overwhelmed. However, their music does tend to become quite tiresome and repetitive after having listened to five or six tunes, and after the whole twenty-five minute journey of thirteen resilient songs is over, the listener is sure to be left feeling worn out and confused. Black Witchery-esque tremolo riffs are the main sight on this album, woven together with some eerie and discordant passages and other Incantation-styled sweltering death metal riffs. There is almost nothing ‘catchy’ about this album, so if catchy is what your looking for, look elsewhere, get out while you still can and avoid this album at all costs. Unholy riffing is wrought in incredibly complex and fast patterns, leaving no room for the listener to take a break from the demonic slaughter and exaltation of sinful might, with song names that probably very few are able to pronounce properly. Dissimilarly to how other black/death bands like their production, the sound in “Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitations” is actually quite discernible albeit encaged and somewhat stale.

The drums are seldom, if ever found doing something that isn’t incredibly fast and exhausting, always on par with the tremolo riffs and blasting their way to oblivion. Lots of crashes and changes from ride to hi-hat are seen, typically when the guitars move on to do something else as well. The vocals are as low as possible in the mix, with the guitars way up front, and they offer gritty, low and gloomy whispers that are hardly present in comparison to the other instruments. All in all, I found “Pandemonic Ululations…” to be a jumbled listen, and while I was very surprised at what their music had in store for me, it did have some great songs among other worse ones; though, it is certainly an interesting listen and a pleasing one for those who are avid fans of black/death metal, especially weirder bands like Portal and Impetuous Ritual, both of which are similar in terms of both peculiarity and awkwardness. A tormenting, disfiguring yet somewhat enjoyable listen.

75/100

-SmithMetal84

Friday, March 16, 2012

Terminate - Thirst for the Obscene [2012]


Terminate are another one of those lesser-known underground metal outfits that are currently playing neck breaking old-school death metal from the United States, and are unjustly little heard of. They are also one of the ones that are playing higher quality death metal, shooting bursts of energy and carrying lots of sheathed potential in their music. Having a style similar to that of Swedish death metal, unnecessary being the mention of the bands (think "usual suspects"), they are among the few bands today that show a very promising future, even though their style still has that unfortunate “it’s been done before” factor.  In spite of this, many will find “Thirst for the Obscene” to be a very fun and pleasing listen, and those who don’t get the chance to listen to it should stick around for a future full-length, as Terminate’s music outshines many other bands'.

Terminate bear a quite overt resemblance to Bolt Thrower and Entombed (and all of the other classic Swedeath bands) and their songwriting skills are surprisingly fresh. They tend to constantly switch things up in their songs, leading to a much better result and fun listen. The thick guitar tone is delivered by crunchy riffs, both tremolo and some thrashier conducts, and the guitars are at the top of the mix, leading the way for the rest of the instruments to follow. They waste no time in getting into the meat of the songs and voraciously producing relentless death/thrash metal with memorable riffs and interesting changes. Mosh grooves are heard quite often throughout, usually preceded by tremolo passages and followed as such too. “Numb” is responsible for some of the absolute craziest headbanging any listener is sure to perform, with its mid-paced tempo and catchy riffs, the guitar tone always staying true to the Swedeath trademark sound. The last original song, “Blind Leading the Blind,” contains similar qualities to the ones that come before it, but introduces a more double-bass driven gallop and tempo changes. I cannot help but feel that they could do better, though, as their songwriting abilities and creative minds certainly call for it; nevertheless, the songs on here are all of entertaining and jaw-clenching brutality, rarely having generic riffs.

The last two songs on the EP are both covers, and well-chosen ones at that; the first being Slaughter’s “Incinerator” and the second Celtic Frost’s “The Usurper,” both of which are well-performed covers of the original songs. The vocals are somewhat lower in the mix, breathless rasps that range from higher to lower growls. My only complaint for this EP is that there are too few original songs, but to their credit, they keep it short and sweet. Contrary to what many Swedeath-worshipping bands are doing today, Terminate don’t follow in that continuous d-beat style, having only one on the entire EP; rather, they have blended crusty/thrash mosh grooves with Swedeath tremolo riffs, and it works to their advantage. “Thirst for the Obscene” is their second release to date, the previous being a demo, and hopefully they won’t run out of creative material for future records. I eagerly wait for a new full-length.

80/100

-SmithMetal84