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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.



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.



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.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Profanatica - Sickened By Holy Host [2012]

After releasing a full-length in 2010 called “Disgusting Blasphemies Against God,” Profanatica have done no less than set out to release an EP in a similar vein to the preceding album, deviating little from what they had accomplished in said full-length. Still releasing some of the most turbulent, evil and primitive black metal out there today with a relatively polished production and blasphemous yet well thought-out riffing, they have Paul Ledney behind the wheel, the main driving force of the band. To no great surprise, Ledney is also part of the USBM band Havohej, both corresponding to a slightly more experimental style. That’s not to say that they’re orthodox nor avant-garde black metal, because they’re nowhere near this; no, both produce perverse and extremely raw black metal that will haunt listeners to their hellish graves.

Containing two different sets of recordings that Hell’s Headbangers have compacted and released in the same EP, there’s no overt difference that separates the two, save the production (the first being more polished and the second more raw and coarse), and it’s practically just the same material recorded from two different angles, so needless to say, it’s slightly superfluous. Regardless, the actual material that can be found on “Sickened By Holy Host” is still some of the most bona fide black metal that’s being released today, with a similar style to Havohej; relentless yet controlled. The tremolo riffs are entwined together with doom-laden and slower sections, casting out different effects into the listener yet all containing the same underlying value; that of utterly blasphemous, scorching pain so black that the cover of the EP may as well have been made a review; because, hell, it’s spot-on. Only at times slowing down to a snail-pace that injects more variety into the material, most of the songs are dominated and pushed forth by dark and raw riffs, coarse, resounding and abrasive vocals, and the result is one that should be dearly loved by fans of this particular sub-style of BM; i.e. not atmospheric nor ambient. Earsplitting riffs like the one introducing “Adorn His Crown With Maggots” are found practically everywhere, and the wholly evil vocals spit venom as if straight out of a snake’s fangs.

The chaotic drumming contributes scarce variation, tending to be usually flared by quick alternations of bass/snare/bass/snare and so forth (don’t mistake that with outright blast-beats, though. Listen and you’ll see.) I found the second half of the EP to be less impacting than the first, with a more prominent bass and less focused attention on the guitars. Aside from that, my overall consensus deems the EP fit to what it had obviously aimed for, and a full-length is hopefully in the works, one that I will surely lend my ears to.  Not for the weak, this EP serves as an absolutely vile and malicious release, for people who enjoy delving into the more experimental side of black metal, without going all-out progressive and avant-garde.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Graveyard - The Altar Of Sculpted Skulls [2011]

Churning out surprisingly heavy Swedish death metal from the depths of Spain, Graveyard are a four member band that have put out substantial quality in their latest EP “The Altar Of Sculpted Skulls." What you can expect on this record is worship (but not a straight-up rip off) to some of the Swedish death metal masters that knew how to do it right, and even some tribute to death metal bands like Funebrarum and such. Granted, these two styles can often be found backing each other up (not always), but Graveyard certainly know how to blend them together and release catchy yet evil and morbid old-school death metal. By mixing these two styles, they surpass so many other bands that are releasing sub-par and derivative material today.

The EP starts off right away with no use of a needless acoustic or ambient introduction as I find so many bands doing lately, and they beat the listener in the head with a massive sledgehammer of heavy death metal. The guitar tone will immediately appeal to those who are in need of a good ass-kicking death metal record, and “The Altar Of Sculpted Skulls” kicks off the EP with a nice blast of tremolo passages and chugging mosh grooves. Conversely to so many generic Swedish death metal bands today that are trying to imitate--and quite cheaply, at that--the style for which Sweden is renowned, they appropriate there music with far more interesting riffs than other bands have… which is not to say progressive wankery; rather, simplistic, heavy and flat-out crushing riffs, and I mean this all in the best way possible. There are few riffs that sound recycled, and between their jumbles of different riffs, there's great lead work. To expand on that, yes, there is lead work, to even my surprise. Whether it’s the more rock ’n’ roll-y solo on the first track or the catchy and eerie one on the next track, they alone definitely improve the quality of the music, brought about by high-pitched guitars and creative, memorable patterns.

While the rhythmic guitars are the highlight on this record, the vocalist also does a pretty good job of delivering quality death metal. He spews out low growls and grunts, grisly and bestial vomits along with the occasional shriek that agree perfectly with the crunchy and dense guitar tone. Graveyard is definitely a band to watch out for, and I eagerly await a new full-length after hearing this bastard of an EP. Equally fun as it is memorable, you’ll constantly find yourself bobbing your head to the catchy rhythms and headbangable mid-paced grooves that lie gruesomely in “The Altar Of Sculpted Skulls.” Hell, even the instrumental track on this record is fantastic, with its doomy sections and eerie passages. The only complaint I harbor is that it’s too short, but luckily, everything that lies in store for you on here is of good quality.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nails - Unsilent Death [2010]

An Earth shaking album of unending face pounding magnitude. 

How many lifetimes must a man live before adequately preparing oneself to know how to rule this hard. Its like getting raped, you just can't prepare for it. Californian hardcore punk titans beat you to a pulp in this legendary album. This is simply just a fun listen; it really does make you want to jump up and punch someone until they die just because that sound is so brutally awesome! With a length of 13:54 this album will leave you begging for more and at the same time keeping things short and sweet.

For any fans of this genre can agree that one of the things that isn't a 100% necessary but can make an album a masterpiece is, oddly enough, the guitar feedback. It's amazing how hardcore punker thugs can take something that would be insanely annoying if you heard it during a power metal band's performance, and when played here or in others it lets you know shit is about to get real. But we all know that. Especially in the middle of tracks 4 and 5, "Suffering Soul" and "Unsilent Death", those build ups are supercharged when executed with the feedback.

But at that rate, that feedback would be nothing without their barbaric riffs! Barbaric would be a great way to describe them; very neanderthal and simple but far from boring. If you could play steroids through an amplifier this is what it would sound like. They have the speed of punk and will keep songs short, and then there will be songs like Unsilent Death that just has such awesome riffage; they vamp on it for a bit longer. They aren't restraining themselves by saying, "Oh, songs aren't supposed to be this short so we should right some filler to just add to length." And if the drums were any different their genre could be dramatically changed. It could be pretty close to grind if the drummer was all blasts.

Don't overlook this album just because the first thing it says on the Facebook info page is "Hardcore". Honestly, it was hard to tell this was even a hardcore album until the title track came in and screamed it at the top of its lungs. This is however something that one may not be able jam nonstop all day, which varies from person to person of course, but that is the only downside of then length of this album is that it just makes you want MORE! Bad ass would be an understatement for this monumental release. It took someone like me, who is very close minded towards hardcore and just turned me around.


Favorite Tracks: Unsilent Death, Suffering Soul, Scum Will Rise, Traitor, Depths, Conform, Your God, Scapegoat, No Servant

Monday, March 12, 2012

Farsot - Insects [2011]

Farsot--consisting of five members whose names are unknown and who’ve come together to spawn an interesting blend of sounds--hail from Germany, a country known for its grand thrash scene and overall evil sound in releases. Farsot deviate from this niche considerably, retaining little of that well-loved and widespread ‘evil’ sound, and they inject lots of progressive elements into their songwriting. This indeed makes their brand of black metal far more original than anything I’ve heard in quite a while, and if the word ‘progressive’ may turn you off, fear not; their sound cannot be described in only one word, as their music undergoes a very healthy dose of interesting and peculiar changes, but they do have a good way of still cleaving tightly to their black metal roots.

Their music is hardly comparable to any bands that I’ve heard in recent times; perhaps in some parts sounding more like Craft-esque crunchy and dissonant riffs, and in others having an immense jazz/progressive influence; the latter being clearly shown in the 10-minute-long “Empyrean,” or the completely un-metal in the strictest of terms “7.” They also lean towards a more atmospheric aura, and blend this surprisingly well with crunchier riffing, switching back and forth between these two styles and interweaving further different tendencies into their songs. They excel at songwriting, and sometimes they may even overdo the drastic sweeps of different sounds by changing them a whole lot; however, they make everything corroborate so well that you’re reminded that all of these different sounds are coming from the same package. There are also some riffs that tend to have more unorthodox patterns, eerie strumming and dissonant chords; all the while blending in crunchy and palm-muted segments too. The production is tight and, as with all of the instruments, perfectly well executed. A notable mention goes out to every one of the musicians in Farsot for their originality and blatant peculiarity of their music. And due to their incredible songwriting skills, the songs tend to drag on in length. Fortunately the songs contain waves of different patterns and plots and counterplots, and they, for the most part, keep the listener’s attention.

All of the instruments play a huge role in the development of their overall sound, and without any one of them, Farsot would not have been able to accomplish what they have in “Insects.” This is a release that has definitely left me in awe, if not only for their drastic changes of styles and how they differentiate greatly from other black metal bands today. That said, their music is not astounding either, even if it does have all of the previous mentions that I’ve given it; that is to say, so many different styles compressed into one, be it the crunchy or eerie or dissonant, chaotic, progressive, jazzy, etc., riffs. It’s quite obvious that the band put immense effort into this release, and it’s an odd one out amongst crowds of similar bands, to say the least. Despite all of the interesting qualities that it puts forth, I came out not completely overwhelmed, but somewhere in the middle; satisfied.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nattfog - Mustan Auringon Riitti [2012]

Alongside their fellow Finnish compatriots in Förgjord, Nattfog are another band that are producing cold black metal tunes from Finland, and after five years of releasing only a demo and a split, they’ve finally released their debut full-length, dubbed “Mustan Auringon Riitti” and released through Hammer of Hate. A two member band, they do differ from Förgjord (who have also just released a black metal album) mainly in that they have less variety and far more depressing songs, their cold tones and atmosphere just screaming of agony and pain. While the former introduce far more variety in their songs, Nattfog rely on and make use of heavy repetition and far more bleak, unforgiving and somber riffs, a less enclosed atmosphere and more frost-bitten tones.

As previously stated, Nattfog tend to lean on the more depressing side of black metal, producing such sorrow and grief that you can just feel the members’ pain through the instruments. The atmosphere is the main point in their music, and when all of the instruments mesh together to formulate the end result, this is when their music is at its peak, seen greatly in the agonizing “Reaching To The Stars.” Hell, seen on practically every song. Seldom, if ever, do they tremolo-pick abrasive and punishing riffs; rather, they play mostly slow passages that correlate with the harrowing vocals while suffering through the utterly poignant guitar tones. Akin to bands like Chasma (which I recently reviewed as well) and Burzum, they use repetition for effect and granted, this can get somewhat tiresome after a little while, but they do achieve in sneaking miserable riffs into the listener’s brain and leaving them there, lingering quietly like ghosts in a graveyard. There’s some melodies used occasionally, only used to produce a further onset and continuation of their ever-pervasive depressing and saddening style.

The occasional use of synthesizers is thrown in as well--of which I’m honestly not particularly fond of--which can be heard in “Kosmisen Usvan Ympäröimänä,” and that can be compared to the more ambient segments of “Filosofem” and other such albums. The vocals are augmented in quality by the--dare I say--relatively clean production to make them seem even more hopeless and raspy, reminiscent of the vocals in Watain yet more vile and gloomy. The drums lack greatly in variation, playing simple beats that follow along right at the guitars’ heals, hardly ever trying to stand out in any way. They’re just… there, but they do their job. The overall production is less harsh and raw than that of Förgjord’s, slightly cleaner and more polished, and it serves to get the band’s sad and melancholic message across.

Nattfog’s redundant use of repetition is the main focus in their music, yet at times it’s also their worst trait. Unfortunately some of the songs do get somewhat old after a while and the listener may find himself getting itchy at times, but if one gets passed this, they’ll certainly get hypnotized by the heartbreaking riffs that Nattfog put forth. A decent enough album, and worth the listen; highly recommended for those in need of a good ol’ punch in the stomach with a little musically emotional scarring, and not for anyone else. Also, skip the last track if you’re not into fully ambient songs, which, coincidentally, I’m not.



Förgjord - Sielunvihollinen [2012]

Take a look at Förgjord’s country of origin, and then take a look at their album artwork. That alone should tell you everything that you need to know; that is to say, “Sielunvihollinen” follows along the standards that have been set for Finnish black metal for quite some time now. These traits, that of cold and menacing, incredibly raw tones, seem to be a trend among Finnish black metal bands, and Förgjord do nothing less than follow suit; however, they do inject several other traits into their music, albeit not many, that succeed in keeping the listener intrigued.

The songs usually tend to be slightly long, but thankfully they do go through enough changes so as to redeem their length and keep the listener at edge. “Ei Kuoleman Arvoinen,” the second song (after a 2-minute intro song) on the album, is probably the best example of this (as well as being easily the best track on the record). It tumbles on through different phases and shows that the band has great potential in their songwriting. It starts off with a somewhat thrashy riff, rolling into blast beats and soon demonstrating that they too love the Finnish style of black metal, bringing about incredibly cold and brooding riffs, harrowing, rasping vocals and muffled drums. The next song, “Musta Lintu,” introduces more groove-laden riffs and less doomy sounds than were played on the previous tune, and so, it contributes more variety to the album. After chuggy riffs it also goes through funeral doom passages with voiceovers, slow tempos and more blast beats with depressing riffs. The rest of the album continues along a similar path, alternating between dismal, funeral doom and some crusty riffing.

Credit is due on their part to mention that there are riffs that are great on the album, but unfortunately there are some fillers as well. Despite this, Förgjord know how to switch up songs enough to keep them interesting, and the transitions between chuggy/ominous riffs are great. The drums are, as previously stated, muffled and slightly lower in the mix, and while they do not do anything particularly special for the album, they back up the riffs nicely. In addition to the blast beats and simple double bass-filled beats, there are even some d-beats to be heard throughout the album, spread scarcely, that make up for some of the aforementioned triteness. The bass is audible but not the main focal point, and it does nothing other than play along with the guitars and hide there in the corner; I have no complaints, however.

Förgjord have introduced into the metal community an album that will most likely be heard little among the masses, but those few people that do lend their ears to it should be fairly surprised at what it has to offer. While admittedly it does have some fillers, there are other riffs played sporadically that are fantastic, and they switch up styles perfectly. As well as the Finnish black metal trademark sound, there’s a pretty overt Darkthrone influence as well, especially circa-“Transilvanian Hunger.” All in all, “Sielunvihollinen” is a worthy listen, and those who happen to stumble upon it should not be disappointed.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ketzer - Endzeit Metropolis [2012]

Massive black thrash destruction auf Deutschland! 

Ketzer plays black thrash and are from Germany. What more do you need to know? One thing you may not know is that Ketzer means "Heretic" in German, if that tells you anything before you listen. It is very fast and evil with a hint of modern flavor in the mix to polish everything off nicely. What really makes this an epic black thrash release is the powerful riffage and the ear shattering vocals. There is definitely something on this for every body. The last thing anyone should do is write this off just because it is new. There is absolutely no recycled riffs of the sorts in this beastly bastard.

 When you first press play the first thing that happens, is a short sample, but then the guitar comes flying in with a high pitched riff that will quickly set the mood for the album! It first has a sound of old school Possessed but with a European hint to it. In fact, a lot of the riffs in this album are very similar to the old big German 3 with obvious influences of Bathory and Venom. It's very first wave of black metal from Germany in short; which is a pretty epic win. And no, not the first wave out of Norway. This album is very consistent and any song will reflect the fore mentioned statements. The riffs are a bit more involved though, track 3, "The Fever's Tide" is a perfect example. It is hard to give specific examples because this whole album is just one epic curbstomp after another. The consistency leaves me speechless.

What really makes this album unique, besides the riffage, is the drum and bass section. It is always the little things that what brings an album up a notch. The drums really stand out to me in the beginning through the first verse of "Redeemed by Truth" with the moving from tom rolls to the snare march was very cool, and the little things thrown in the verse. And the song "Aesthetics And Ecstasy" really stands out in the drum section; and all the instruments for that matter, even the vocal placement. Right before the song kicks in the bass plays the fill an octave higher, and fills like that can be found all over. But above all of this what really made the song was what sounds like a cowbell in the bad ass mid tempo at 2:38. No joke, it totally works. And the bass lead in the second song at 3:12 is just genius. It really shows that everyone here does not like to get bored with their instruments and really take you for a ride.

This is something anyone should pick up, and a must have for black thrash enthusiasts. It does not get boring  during any part of the album and the riffage is untouchable. These guys aren't just KVLT as FVCK they really have an appreciation for their instruments. Seriously, this came out at the beginning of February so don't waste any time. These release is worth it!!


Favorite Tracks: A Requiem For Beauty, The Fever's Tide, Aesthetics And Ecstasy

Enthroned - Obsidium [2012]

Having been actively releasing black metal from Belgium since the early 90’s, one would think that Enthroned have run out of fuel for the fire; and thus, I approached this album with ever so slight trepidation. This is was unfair judgment on my part, and while it may not be an immensely monumental album, it’s probably up there among their best releases, and it does have some characteristics that detach it from other black metal today. Having traditional black metal woven together thoughtfully with other enriching qualities, “Obsidium” definitely delivers and shows that Enthroned are creative and more than capable in their songwriting to produce a memorable album; and that's exactly what they've done.

What forthwith manifests itself in the first song is more or less conventional black metal with the riffs that it usually contains. Towards the latter half of the song, however, the listener will be met by a more mellow, slow and discordant riff, before lapsing straight into blast beat-ridden, furious black metal. The production is extremely well produced, perhaps one could argue too well (that is, for cheap-production whores), but it does suit their style of black metal nicely. Their style is dense in regards to the riffing and the overall sound that it gives off, differing from other bands in that it’s not abrasive nor orthodox, but more compact and hefty. Lots of grooves are seen throughout the forty minutes of the album, and there is a good amount of variety so as to uphold the listener’s attention, only in few places having slightly sub-par riffs.

Enthroned tend to excel when they delve into slower, more somber passages, because those are usually the ones that are most creative and most entertaining; hence, the drumming can become somewhat worn at times, because it tends to be just extremely fast blast beats. The guitars tremolo-pick along, and the drums blast at mind-blowing speeds, and while in theory this should be considered a great thing, it can become slightly stale. There are exceptions for this, however, as shown in the intro to “Deathmoor” or some other segments where the blast beats fit perfectly. This doesn’t detract from the album’s quality as a whole, though, as their focus leans more to the guitars than anything else. The vocals are the typical black metal ones, penetrative and raspy.

There’s a lot of variety to been seen in “Obsidium,” which is great as it holds the listener’s attention throughout the whole album; conversely to what some other bands do and stick to just one monotonous sound. Enthroned have achieved a more than decent album when the odds weren’t exactly in their favor, and hopefully they’ll continue to release good black metal. Highly recommended for fans of the genre and a nice surprise for people like me who approach albums like these with apprehension. That apprehension was no doubt rendered incorrect after having listened through the whole record, and anyone who picks this one up should be fairly satisfied with the purchase.



Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sax - Moravské náøez [1993]

Some of the best thrash metal out there!

Czech is starting to become a gold mine for underrated thrash. First Asmodeus and now these guys! The gems just keep coming. With little to be known about them, based on the Metal Archives these gents have put out 3 demos (Which I have yet to hear) and 2 full lengths. Also according to the MA, they split up in 1992 and formed Sax Pijak after the vocalist left the band. This seems quite odd seeing as this album was released in 1993. Either way it is a good thing it is here because our lives were nothing before this.

These thrash masters blend a magnificent sound that reminds one of old Voivod and Testament. They have tons of the ever so thrashy upbeats that scream old school Testament and Exodus. Then really melt minds with those obscure chords Voivod is so well known for; mainly the tri-tones. The intro to the song "Maniak" is a perfect example of what mixing the fore mentioned bands sounds like. Especially in the first track as well, that song will have you hooked right after that awesome intro when the riffage kicks in. And at 2:11 seconds, the bass will have you begging for more! And yes the vocals are in Czech, yes they are amazing, and fuck you if you only listen to English speaking bands. It is much better to hear vocals in the native tongue! The musicianship is incredible on every ones part. The drummer is able to keep things interesting and switch things up without changing what the riff sounds like.

The interesting part about all of this is that they manage to do all of that without being a prog band or overly technical. And on top of that can keep the songs short and sweet. Long songs are great, but there are moments when songs can drag out and it seems much more efficient to keep them short. It is also easy to loose a crowds attention if your songs are too long. And any band that has riffs like these that can keep a song short without going crossover is just stunning.

The riffs are simply outstanding and the musicianship is truly an inspiration to us all. Seriously, this album rules hard, and it took me 1 minute of trolling Google before I found a way to listen to it. And this is worth finding. Please take the time to listen to this, they blow so many bands right out of the water!


Favorite Tracks: Uhnívat zaživa, Maniak, Popravèí píseò

Here is what I have been able to find via Youtube. It is not this album, and honestly this band is one that has gotten better over time. These tracks still blow tons of bands out the water though!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pestilential Shadows - Depths [2011]

Being their fourth full-length album to date, Pestilential Shadows have released a black metal album that’s very well worth lending a listen to, surpassing their previous efforts and showing that they have great potential. With “Depths,” they’ve proved to be amongst the few black metal bands that put thorough effort into producing well thought-out riffs, and ones that definitely impact the listener. With a harrowing aesthetic and lengthy tracks, they’ve shown that their songwriting skills are at their best they’ve ever been in their careers, and with straightforward black metal meshing together with depressing yet soothing tones, they’ve released one very worthy black metal album.

Without the heavy use of synthesizers and symphonic components that are usually infused for this effect, Pestilential Shadows pull off and show that they have a tendency to put emphasis on atmosphere. The first track, “Lost Geists of the Sunlight Sphere,” shows you this immediately, bundling up spacious riffs that flow about and fill up the atmosphere. That’s not to say that their music is overly-atmospheric either, but it is definitely present, and they do it quite nicely. They play along common notes and chords that are seen in this style of black metal, but they do so in such a way that they don’t come off as neither trite nor stale. Soon lapsing into slow passages with hushed vocals in the background, they show that their creative ability is at its finest, and they in no way do this to seem pseudo-artistic. These slower passages are dominated by clean guitars and gently sway along before going into tremolo-picked riffs that once again bring about a dark atmosphere and chilling, cold tones.

While the guitars are way up front in their mix, the vocals are also another aspect of their music that’s worth mentioning. It reminded me slightly of bands like Emperor that don’t necessarily need vocals to have great music as their riffs are plain stellar, but if you listen closely, they’re there and they’re pretty great. With the guitars strumming along in the foreground, rasped vocals and intense, ample howls are put forth by the vocalist to create an even more impacting effect on the listener. The sorrowful vocals go along perfectly with the guitars, which also tend to be melancholic and mournful. Occasionally they also make use of lower growls as well, adding variation. The drums are also further back in the mix, and they usually alternate between blast beats and fantastic double bass work.

After the last song is over, Pestilential Shadows bear a lasting effect on the listener. Their music is memorable and impacting, as is Emperor’s. They do share some characteristics, but Pestilential Shadows tend to use more repetition than the latter for effect; don’t get me wrong though, they still have great variation throughout the fifty-minute journey that resides in "Depths." Well worth buying and not necessarily essential, but still a great addition to one’s music library.