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With the rise of prominent rappers such as the late XXXTentacion, it was only a matter of time before Trap Metal became a prominent subgenre. Well, we've reached that point, and Ghostmane has been pretty popular in his niche clique.
ANIT-ICON is the sort of hardcore hip-hop that gives off the vibe of reaching edgelord status, but dig between the lines and you will find that Ghostmane is far more conscious of his place in the world and shows a very accepting form of nihilism that is hushed and relaxed than his "public face". You can hear that in the song qualities as the album shifts from heavy distortion guitar with industrial tones and vocal howling, to the more subdued sections with synths, clean singing and a more relaxed environment.
As for the album as a whole...I dig it in patches. Many of my issues with industrial metal are still intact, where the mixing of the instrumentals is all over the place. Usually it's in the industrial tinges of percussion, but you do occasionally hear overblown guitars and shredded vocals that aren't appealing to me in the slightest. When the album is trying to be more like a heavier Nine Inch Nails song circa Broken or The Downward Spiral, the songs actually coalesce well. When it goes more Marilyn Manson, you start to hear discrepancies in the mixing and it doesn't flatter the compositions at all.
And unfortunately, most of this album would rather mimic the Manson comparison. The album ends comfortably from "Hellrap" through to the album closer "Falling Down", but everything before that is disposable.
So it's the last week of November, which means that the most stressful month of the year for a music critic is almost here; where we have to start compiling our best of the year lists, while still listening to any leftover projects from the year that we may have missed, as well as keeping our ear to the ground for a surprise December list breaker. I'm using this opportunity to catch up before becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
So this record from Brazilian Atmo-Black metal band Kaatayra has been looming around my recommended playlist for a good while and has been making some sizeable waves since its release in April. Out of curiosity I gave it a spin and what I found was a very fresh and great interpretation of folkened black metal.
I was not ready for acoustic guitars to carry the majority of the riffing weight. It was immensely satisfying and it opened the gateway for prominent synth background and a fruitful bass, even if it does lack independence. It almost reminded me of the softer moments from Agalloch records like The Mantle and Ashes Against The Grain, which is the highest of compliments. The alternating clean/harsh vocals sound wonderful and it all comes together to create song structures and forms that sound wonderful. The opening track "Chama Terra, Chama Chuva" sounds gorgeous, while the closer, "Bom Retorno (De Volta às Origens)" ends the album with slow, melancholic synths, building intensity into the harsher screams and blast beats, before coming back down for a very sultry, yet uncomfortable conclusion.
The two middle songs are very good as well, but they do seem to meander a bit too long for my liking. As a result, the journey from start to finish of this album is immensely pleasant, but it is easy to lose track of time. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but many of the melodic ideas do tend to blend together. So it isn't the good kind of time wasting. But even that still doesn't hold this album back from being really great. Apparently this is Kaatayra's first of two albums they released this year? I'm going to have to check out Toda História pela Frente as well.
This debut album from a solo performer is creating nature inspired atmospheric black metal in the vein of a Panopticon or Saor, but the music itself pays more of an influence to post-metal in the style of Agalloch. When you throw those three names together in the same sentence, my expectations should be unfathomably high. This should be epic.
But it doesn’t sound like it. Instead, I’m left wondering what happened to the guitars. Unlike the names mentioned previously, this album compresses its guitars and actively butchers the expansive sound that Aleevok is trying to pay homage to. In fact, the guitars serve very little purpose on this record other than to outline chordal progression; they almost seem like they have the role of a blackgaze album, which are typical not very melodically active.
The synthesizers are pretty weak here as well. I don’t know what preset they chose for the horns on “The Bewitching Horns”, but they sound horrible! The “wah-wah’s” are inauthentic and drastically take away from the natural feel of this album.
The best thing I can say about this record are the song structures are nice, I like some of the more acoustic sections, such as the outro “The Serenity of Steel” (although, if we are being honest, we can do away with these acoustic outros anytime now. I didn’t give Saor a free pass last year, you know I’m going to point it out here), and the singer has a pretty strong, if slightly inaudible, vocal timbre. But there is so much better in this field. I hope that Aleevok is just scratching the surface with this album and the future has more mountains than valleys.
Voivod started as a thrashy speed metal band inspired by Motorhead and Discharge before the spacey progressive style later. In their debut War and Pain, they still had their twisted character and aggressive energy, and this mid-80s production fits so d*mn with the raw ambience. I haven't heard such filthy bass since Arch Enemy's Black Earth!
Snake's vocals are different from what I've heard in their progressive trilogy. His shrieks are a unique distinctive feature here. His broken English is amusing, but it makes some sense because he's French...-Canadian. The music has straight fury, getting direct with crashing riffs and flaming solos by Piggy, similar to the bluesy style of Fast Eddie Clarke (both passed guitar legends, RIP) tightening some things. Away drums away with his D-beat-influenced thrash beats that are as pounding as Blacky's blacky bass.
You definitely wanna look out for the band's "theme", "Voivod", with its killer lyrics like the unrestrained "VOIVOD!!!" chorus and in one of the verses, "I'll chop your body to eat!!" The bass leads the way in "Warriors of Ice", which is so unlike the similarly named second track of Rhapsody (of Fire)'s debut Legendary Tales. Voivod's song is a straight speeder, unveiling an odd structure with Piggy's shredding that he would be looking back in pride from heaven now. "Suck Your Bone" is a fun song to listen to with Piggy's frantic mayhem, executing kick-rear rhythms and peripheral tempos that head up in the chorus.
"Iron Gang" attacks harder than a prison riot. Then the album's title track starts menacingly, a filthy dirge that is often mistimed in some parts. Still great! Next song "Blower" blows you away in chaotic frenzy, especially at the end.
"Live For Violence" crawls into one ear, violently bursts out the other, and vice versa, back and forth. The main riff of the song is powerful, along with some parts showcasing the band's future experimentation. A great heavy song! Up next, "Black City" has some of the most evil bass ever heard that alone might inspire later black metal bassists. The 7-minute closing epic "Nuclear War" has a beat marching to a peculiar rhythm. Then Piggy's aggression takes over, combusting and wrecking until the ending. SO WILD!!
Before Voivod headed into their progressive side, War and Pain slams your head clean off with a gigantic mallet like croquet. There's not a lot of progressive melody here, just fists of fury delivering punches through windows and doors. They got so good in their debut, but their progressive albums would show their evolving sound and fame....
Favorites: "Voivod", "Suck Your Bone", "War and Pain", "Live for Violence", "Nuclear War"
Venom... The band that invented black metal, evident in their first 3 albums; Welcome to Hell, Black Metal, and At War With Satan, the second of which inspired the name of the genre. They are the center of 3 things I generally try to avoid; classic standard speed metal that I have no interest in, black metal that I try to finger-cross away, and the early 80s that past my taste year range prime. Well of course they invented black metal, but it's mostly just speedy heavy metal, just super sayin'...
After their (in)famous satanic black metal-inspiring trilogy, fans of those albums started to think this one, Possessed, is where the band descends into sh*t and p*ss. This album might now have the band's earlier savagery, but I think this still sounds pretty good. The holocaust of deadly black shall please some masses!
The album begins with "Powerdrive", a song that would definitely newer bands of speed/power metal (DragonForce? Maybe...). This song is absolutely made for metalheads to headbang. I've heard that song is the best Venom album opener since the debut's "Sons of Satan", but in a more controlled but still killer manner. I would be curious, but I shall spare my religious side, thank you very much! "Flytrap" continues the speed metal, but in a calmer tone that would have other 80s metal acts sound like sh*t in comparison. There's also a funny solo that you gotta hear to believe. "Satanachist" is not as memorable as the previous two, but once again fast and killer. "Burn this Place (To the Ground)" is a faster slaughter despite the lack of coherence in songwriting.
Then we take off into the infectious beginning riff of "Harmony Dies", a cool song with catchy verses and a solo that would have you imitating it until your air-guitar goes up in smoke. The title track is midpaced with the lyrics and vocals by Cronos being focused on more than the riffing. The verses get intense before the headbanging chorus ("I am possessed by all that is evil"). Other than that, the song is pretty generic. Also it's one the PMRC's "Filthy 15" at #14. I think the lyric "We drink the vomit of the priests, make love with the dying wh*re") was enough to make Tipper Gore vomit. "Hellchild" is another wild speeder and one of the best in the album. "Moonshine" is another song welcoming you back to their debut Welcome to Hell, but with generic riffs brushed aside by nice rhythms. Another great solo comes on to continue your air-guitar skills until the strings break. Then there's a better ending.
"Wing and a Prayer" is a well-composed instrumental that is faster and worth headbanging to. "Suffer not the Children" is another typical speeder, but that title though, THE F***!?! What's up with that!? It seems like younger kids have turned into a****les being rewarded for doing G****MN NOTHING in their pitiful lives!! Is one of those rewards the chance to appear in this album's artwork (drummer Abaddon's son and producer Keith Nichol's niece). "Voyeur" has some worse moments. "Mystique" has some mystical moments, like the weird beginning aura, disappearing when Cronos' vocals continue. "Too Loud (for the Crowd)" is a nicely loud song brought down by the miserable chorus.
So despite never wanting to taste the venom of Venom, I think of Possessed as a good 80s metal album. Venom fans should really get this. I would tell non-Venom fans to f*** off, but that would be rudely hypocritical because I'm in that category. This album is not totally bad, but I politely decline the invitation to the band's old satanic Hell....
Favorites: "Powerdrive", "Flytrap", "Harmony Dies", "Hellchild", "Wing and a Prayer", "Mystique"