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You may have noticed that I recently revisited 2004’s “Terrifyer” album from Washington-based grindcore trio Pig Destroyer; a record that I’d missed at the time of release but cottoned on to five years later & have thoroughly enjoyed ever since. I had originally secured “Terrifyer” in a digital format which included an immensely epic 32 minute bonus track known as “Natasha” in accompaniment; a piece that I regarded as not only an essential part of the release but also the clear highlight. In fact, it was actually that track that elevated my opinion of “Terrifyer” from a very solid & enjoyable grindcore record to a true classic of extreme metal so I’ve always regarded it as a part of the full album experience. But when I returned to “Terrifyer” through Spotify last week, it became immediately obvious that it was missing a key component. That’s right ladies & gentlemen! “Natasha” was nowhere to be found. Apparently the bonus track had been cut for subsequent reissues & I soon discovered that it had been awarded its own release as a single-track E.P. in a slightly extend 37 minute format in 2008. This left me pondering for some time over whether to include it under my “Terrifyer” review or not. I mean I hadn’t known the album without it & it had made such a major impact on me at the time. But I eventually decided to omit it & conduct this separate review of the “Natasha” E.P. as I feel that it’s definitely a very different beast to the proper album. Of course, this led to my scoring being slightly lower for “Terrifyer” but it just seems more appropriate.
For those that are familiar with Pig Destroyer’s grindcore pedigree but haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing “Natasha” as yet, please erase all preconceived notions of what you’re potentially in store for because this particular track sounds absolutely nothing like any of their albums. In fact, it’s very clear as to why the band felt the need to separate it from their proper albums as it was always destined to alienate some fans. “Natasha” sits in direct contract to the band’s short one minute blasts of energy & aggression & prefers a beautifully drawn out & slowly enveloping ambient approach that I find to be considerably more appealing. And when I say ambient, I MEAN ambient because a good portion of this release can be described as legitimate ambient music & some very high quality ambient music at that. As a long-time fan of that particular genre, I can tell you that Pig Destroyer have absolutely nailed the art of creating an atmosphere through the use of sounds, synths & samples & right from the very start I feel myself being swept off to a dark & eerie place where I’m enveloped in a shroud of menace. Despite the lengthy & drawn-out arrangement, there is never a hint at boredom & the composition has been perfectly tailored to accentuate the highlights & leave me feeling that this is the fullest realization of the concept the band took into the studio. When the guitars & drums finally chime in, I experience an all-encompassing feeling of power & realise that I’m amongst kindred spirits.
The production job on “Natasha” is nothing short of phenomenal & is spot on for this style of music. When you really break it down, this track is a series of different ideas that have been joined together to create a whole that’s clearly greater than the individual parts. Many of the segways between these parts really shouldn’t work either. Sometimes you’ll get a heavy riff section simply being faded out & a more ambient section faded in but the timing is absolutely spot on & it’s done with such professionalism that it seems entirely appropriate. The guitars & drums couldn’t be more crushing & if there’s not a bass player here then the producer has done a stellar job at beefing out those guitars. The stereo spectrum has been fully utilized which shouldn’t be a surprise as the track was always intended for a 5.1 surround sound DVD release (which is the format it originally came in when included with “Terrifyer”).
“Natasha” has nothing whatsoever to do with grindcore. It utilizes a number of different subgenres across its lengthy duration but its basis is in doomy sludge metal & a number of slow dirging riffs can be heard scattered evenly across the tracklisting. The earlier parts have a definite Godflesh feel to them (minus the industrial element of course) while the unaccompanied riff towards the middle of the track is a lot dronier & wouldn’t be out of place on an early Earth record. There’s a definite post-metal sensibility about how the whole thing is constructed that brings to mind the likes of Neurosis though with the ambience out-weighing the metal for the most part. I feel that Swans have been a definite influence on Pig Destroyer in this regard (particularly during the gorgeous female vocal section) & that synth-driven period two-thirds of the way into the piece is simply breath-taking in its ethereal splendor. But never fear all you extreme metal fans! The doomier sections are absolutely soul-crushing with drummer Brian Harvey contributing the perfect accompaniment to fully accentuate the overall heaviness of Scott Hull’s guargantuan riffs.
Interestingly, those of you that have already read my review of "Terrifyer" would be aware that J.R. Hayes' vocal delivery wasn't exactly my cup of tea but here it's a completely different story. Hayes offers much more variety with a number of different approaches being employed from whispered spoken word to a tortured & mournful style that reminds my of early 90's Anathema to a more aggressive & vicious delivery that sits somewhere between Ministry's Al Jourgensen & hardcore punk. So essentially we've seen J.R. expanding on Pig Destroyer's overall appeal levels for me & in the process becoming a tool to further enhance the atmosphere the band are trying to create. His vocals are by no meaning over-used though as they're used fairly sparingly compared to your average 1-2 minute blast-fest.
I can’t express how effective this all is. In fact, not only does “Natasha” hold its own against the elite releases from the sludge/doom metal subgenres, it actually surpasses the vast majority of them. And listening to it as an isolated release in its own right (i.e. without the blasting 32 minutes of grindcore in front of it) has only further enhanced its artistic grandeur. To say that “Natasha” couldn’t possibly be more suited to my tastes & interests is an under-statement. It’s pretty much the sum of all of the things that I love about organically created music & I regard it as one of very few metal records that are truly perfect. Make no mistake, “Natasha” is one of the most underrated records I’ve ever come across. It’s a genuine classic & should by all rights be place on a pedestal as the highlight of Pig Destroyer’s career to date.
For fans of: Thou, Grief, Harvey Milk
There's an art to good storytelling. I don't just mean the prerequisites we all got taught in school of ensuring all stories had a beginning, a middle and an end though. Nocturnus AD as a band are a story all in themselves after their name change way back in 1999. By that point we had already had the much lauded and praised The Key which had given us a first taste of what the band where capable of as far back as 1990. The complex, twisting, progressive and constantly shifting narrative that the debut album encapsulated was always going to be a challenge to build on and the band struggled to come close to matching the levels of mastery when it came to Thresholds and Ethereal Tomb.
The good news is that after some twenty nine years of waiting, fans of the group finally got an album worthy as a successor to The Key. Whilst not perfect and notwithstanding the fact that conceptual/technical death metal is a niche listening market, Paradox is grand in its scope and polished in its delivery covering lots of information and requiring close attention to detail to really enjoy. For the first few tracks I had to adjust to the production job as it feels underwhelming at first and lacking in power, but once you realise that this is deliberate so the style can flow as intended and let the power come from the leads and soaring keyboards to elevate the power organically then it all makes sense and instantly becomes more palatable.
The thought that has gone into this record is noticeable as it does not just tell a story for storytelling sake. Just as much attention has been paid to the instrumentation, arrangement and song-structure in order to ensure the album does not rely on just words to tell the tale. The musicianship is excellent on here with the band playing well collectively as well as also letting the individual musicians shine where needed. The guitar work is shredding perfection and the keys make a fine effort at trying to match them to give a real sci-fi edge to proceedings. Browning's vocals are measured enough to add the required depth to the songs but not entirely steal the show and his drumming feels understated throughout. The only mystery is Daniel Tucker's bass. The former Obituary man isn't present at all in the mix, I mean we are talking ...And Justice For All proportions of a lack of bass here.
It is a great album and I don't know if it is to be termed as a debut, a follow up or just a plain old new release. Whichever view we take the presence of the album is more than welcome regardless of how overdue it may be.
Now this band I've never listened to! I mean I tried listening to a few songs from Iced Earth but never got fully interested in that band. I thought their music were too dark and too thrashy for my earlier lighter power metal taste. Now that I'm currently tolerating thrash metal slightly more, I might enjoy this band a little more, but probably not enough to listen to them full-time. So let's check this album out, shall we?
Iced Earth has been recognized as one of the most top-notch 90s power/thrash metal acts, with their third album Burnt Offerings considered their best work, giving the band worldwide fame. The talented Matt Barlow is considered the band's best vocalist and he's definitely never a disappointment.
The opening title track starts with a spooky keyboard melody and a spoken line from the 1992 Dracula film. Then when you start hearing growling vocals from guitarist Jon Schaffer and Barlow's singing ("Offer me good omen"), you know you're in for an epic thrash metal journey in a similar style to the 80s material of bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer. "Last December" is an excellent short track with good guitar riffing. Another thrashy highlight is "Diary" with some good Slayer-like riffing and great guitar leads. It's the diary of a thrashy band!
"Brainwashed" is more melodic while being a mean lean riffing machine. Same with "Burning Oasis" which has an awesome one-minute intro. "Creator Failure" is basically a Lovecraftian battle song that hints at the band's style in their next album The Dark Saga. That shrieking verse towards the end, though, like wow!! He's as impressive as that Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane! (RIP Dane)
"The Pierced Spirit" is short slow moody ballad/interlude before the incoming hellish storm. "Dante's Inferno" is a 16-minute 3-part epic suite based on the Inferno segment of The Divine Comedy, with nothing boring at all. After a gloomy one-and-a-half-minute, we start rolling into the fire and brimstone of heaviness containing the finest moments of this album and Iced Earth. Any Mercyful Fate fan might think of all this as that band on steroids. The drums and guitars are all fast, often switching to slow before going fast again. And of course, Barlow's singing is tremendous! The epic lyrics really nail the topics in that book. The drum kicking sometime after the 10-minute mark is so brutal. After a few minutes of heaviness, it all goes down to an ominous buildup to a thrashy growling verse, and the dark heaviness keeps going until fading into inferno.
If you want an album with epic lyrics and great vocals, but with riffs and drums closer to thrash/speed metal than power metal, you gotta pick up Burnt Offerings, especially if you're a fan of Iron Maiden and Metallica from the 80s. Those kinds of fans would never regret this heavy offering!
Favorites: "Burnt Offerings", "Diary", "Burning Oasis", "Dante's Inferno"
In their work to blend the rabid sound of death metal with the punk/hardcore beats that so clearly influence them, Creeping Death spread a fair smattering of Swedish death metal over proceedings also to provide a release that I certainly want to listen to. Whereas never quite dropping into worship territory for any particular group or style the band pull together ten tracks and display an aggressive if not predictable performance throughout.
With songs titles like Blood lust Contamination and Peeled from Reality we know we are not listening to a band who are happy with the world at large with their album full of references to violence, war, insanity and death (perhaps not in that order). They had taken long enough to drop their debut full-length, with 2019 heralding their fourth year of existence and their fifth release to date including singles, demos and EP's in the near half-decade that they had been around.
In that time though the band have simply just blended the styles and not really done anything new or unique with their sound that a handful of other bands do just as well. Now that's not to say they have to do anything new or unique, they might be perfectly happy with this output. But all of the "old school" or retro tags that we apply to our death metal nowadays can lead to over saturation of the market with hundreds of bands all sounding the same or very similar. Yes this nods firmly to Entombed just as much as it does Gatecreeper and so it is obvious that the band have an array of influences, but I don't think Creeping Death themselves ever get to really shine on Wretched Illusions which is a real shame as they are a talented bunch.
Listen, boxes get ticked, i's get dotted and t's get crossed most definitely on this release. Will you remember it half an hour after finishing listening to it - probably not. But you'll have fun at least I suppose.
One listen to Mefitis and you'll soon hear where their heart lies. Mining the depths of Finnish death metal whilst espousing some melodic Swedish influences also the band have both feet firmly rooted in the early to mid-nineties scene. Even going as far as having their album artwork done by Rantanen (of Demigod, Demilich and Adramlech cover fame) the band wear their influences from this era of expansive and bold death metal on both sleeves, leaving just a little room for Emperor-like touches also.
Comprised of just two members, the American partnership of Alex Mitroff and Jake Dawson show a myriad of talent on the nine tracks on offer here. Full of galloping energy and racing speed pace they certainly do take you on a journey back through the last three decades to a time when brutality and heavy upon heavier just wasn't giving fans of death metal enough. The influence of early At The Gates is obvious more or less from the word go, but this is not just mere ATG-worship. There's enough of that Finnish influence in the sound also to add some further depth as well as smatterings of the more atmospheric and subtly flamboyant elements of In The Nightside Eclipse to really make things interesting.
Most tracks feel like they are always building with the guys making excellent use of the progressive elements of their songwriting prowess. In so many ways, when in full flow at least, the album feels like a sustained attack on the senses delivered in the most efficient and calculated manner. It's like bits of blades used in the frenzy break off and stay stuck in yourvwounds as a bloody reminder of the experience you have undergone.
The album has a range of instrumental tracks (three in total) that build the atmosphere and prowess of the record well, they never get showy or turn into guitar wank-fests but act instead to emphasise the lush darkness of the metal being played here. I should add that the band have been around since circa 2007/2008 and it took them twelve years to get a full-length released. I feel that during this time they have honed their skills nicely and given a complete and authentic death metal album that has real layers of nostalgia for the more experienced of metal fans to enjoy peeling back