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. 


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!"


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.