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The Principle of Evil Made Flesh

When my self-imposed exile from metal was ending at the end of the Nineties and I was casting around for bands to get me into the new sounds that had developed since I left it behind in 1990, I stumbled upon CoF playing live on some late night UK TV show and was mesmerised by their sound and aesthetic which were all new to me. I soon obtained a copy of Principles of Evil (via Napster I am ashamed to say) and really got into this new, eccentric-sounding and thoroughly exciting "new" style. I've not always been wowed by all their stuff, but I did find that this debut, Middian and even Nymphetamine offered me enough enjoyment to thoroughly shred any possibility of me claiming to be any kind of trve kvltist black metal fan! However, over the intervening years my black metal listening has refined itself somewhat with Cradle no longer appealing to me that much and it has been a long time since I last listened to Principles of Evil all the way through, so it's time to see how it stacks up 25 years on from my initial discovery of the East Anglian black metal goths.

The most striking thing about CoF is the sheer theatricality of their sound. Combining the symphonic black metal of Emperor with the gothic aesthetics of MyDying Bride, Dani Filth strikes me as a black metal version of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Cradle albums as soundtracks to black metal musicals. In truth, that fanciful notion has less basis in fact here on the debut than it does on some of their later releases, but it is still a fair comment, I think, as it is still steeped in theatricality. To this end Benjamin Ryan's keyboards play a significant role on The Principle... providing intros, outros, interludes and as atmospheric layering they are never far from the action and provide some great moments, such as during The Forest Whispers My Name where they provide a nice melodic overlay and my favourite track, To Eve the Art of Witchcraft, which is undoubtedly elevated by Ryan's keyboard work.

Obviously, Cradle never really sounded this black metal again, with them inching into more gothic metal territory with each release, but underneath the gothic and atmospheric trappings there are some pretty decent slices of melodic black metal blasting here with the title track, the aforementioned The Forest Whispers My Name and A Crescendo of Passion Bleeding. They are unafraid to slow things down, too, and lean more into the gothic metal direction. The Black Goddess Rises, for example, contains little actual black metal and is a much more considered tempo, almost resembling doom metal, for much of it's runtime.

I'm actually glad I returned to this for May's feature because it has held up quite well across the intervening years and I feel a bit more love towards it today than I did before revisiting it. Of course there is an inherent degree of cheesiness here, with Dani's clean vocals providing much of it, but I do like his singular brand of ear-piercing screams which possibly makes me a bit more forgiving.

Sonny Sonny / May 30, 2024 03:21 PM
There's Something Rotten... In the State of Denmark

The year 1993 was when death metal bands Carcass and Entombed started taking on more melodic classic rock elements becoming more apparent throughout the decade. Joining that party in 1997 is Danish band Illdisposed, having perfected the idea of adding groovy rhythms to death metal in their 3rd album.

I have Pelle to thank for that recommendation. This is more than just a catchy death metal album. There's Something Rotten... in the State of Denmark is something awesome! I'm talking about a melodic death 'n' roll masterpiece. Right from my first time listening to this, it sounds fantastic, not to mention fresh for a 90s album. That decade is an important one if you're going for hidden gems like this that are sadly overlooked due to the classic 80s.

The album starts with "Psychic Cyclus I-III" that is right away my favorite track here. With simple melodic riffing and amazing soloing, it's not too far off from what In Flames was doing at the time, and it's the perfect way to kick things off. Continuing this epic streak is "Near the Gates", as the At the Gates-infused riffing and soloing never ceases to amaze me. "We Lie in the Snow" has the most melody here. The excellent guitarwork can cause even the toughest extreme metalhead to shed tears. The lyrics also rule, fitting well with those groove-ish verses.

Another perfect standout is the Megadeth cover "Wake Up Dead". While obviously a lot different from the original song, the band certainly gave it a killer touch. "Life: an Evaluation" has some melody that Animosity would later experiment on. The semi-title track, "There's Something Rotten..." has catchy riffs and rhythms to stand out well. There's a bit of funk in "Pimp", particularly when clean vocals are snuck in, which is unusual but in a pleasant way.

"Days on the Floor" is another example of unforgettable melodeath 'n' roll that can stay in your mind from the first listen onwards. "Not a Vision - 1991" sounds like the band is paying tribute to death metal bands from that year, but at the same time, this is the kind of melodeath you would expect in early Shadows Fall and the heavier side of Trail of Tears. What's really meant as the closing song is "Instrumentally Illdisposed", a majestic ballad-like instrumental that shall remain immortal in the death metal realm. There's actually one more track in the album, the strange "Horsens Highway" that's just a joke track but I don't mind.

There's nothing more intriguing when it comes to melodeath 'n' roll than There's Something Rotten... in the State of Denmark. This is where Illdisposed have reached the top and it might very well stay that way. They've really done well in this album, and I'm up for more from these Danish melodeath legends!

Favorites: "Psychic Cyclus I-III", "Near the Gates", "Wake Up Dead", "There's Something Rotten...", "Days on the Floor", "Instrumentally Illdisposed"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 30, 2024 12:15 PM
Post Human: NeX GEn

Bring Me The Horizon sure took their time to finally release the full length album in the Post Human series didn’t they? The EP, Survival Horror, was a project that wanted so desperately to bridge the gap between power pop and mainstream metal but failed to meet expectations by having a baffling production choice. Now fast forward nearly four years and the first full length album from BMTH (Bring Me The Horizon) is finally out. I wonder why it took so long for this record to be released, because as far as I am aware, the first promotional single for this album, “DiE4u” was released in September of 2021. Frontman Oli Sykes claims there were “unforeseen circumstances” that led to its delay.

However, upon listening Post Human: NeX GEn, I wonder how much validity can be put into that claim from Oli. With a few exceptions; those being the Deftones influence of “liMOusIne” as well as Smashing Pumpkins on “n/A,” this hour-long album sounds eerily like another pop metal album that came out in 2022: Bad Omens’ The Death of Peace of Mind. It could stand to reason that this record was delayed under the pretense that it would be compared to that Bad Omens record, and likely ridiculed for stealing. And we couldn’t have one of the 2010s most popular metal bands be called plagiarists, right?

Alright, conspiracy theories aside, Post Human: NeX GEn is a far better produced record that Survival Horror. The guitars first and foremost actually have some grit and power behind them that were drastically missing in the mix on the last EP. The percussion is still heavy, but that might be because NeX GEn has even more electronic elements than before. And these are not just the occasional record scratch or synth line; we’re talking full on glitchy hyperpop production that reminded me of 100 gecs. Some of the records electronic breakdowns can be extremely jarring with their dynamic whiplash and its pin-point precision stop and start nature.

Like with 100 gecs, Oli Sykes has optioned for more synthetic vocal textures, including autotune. Surprisingly, the vocals are much improved from the last record and the sung/scream dichotomy of this album is more balanced. It does feel like a modern evolution of the BMTH sound from the early 2010s. The main melodic lines of “YOUtopia”, “DArkSide” and “LosT” are obvious standouts.

As for the remainder of the compositions, well I already mentioned the Deftones influence of “liMOusIne,” and with AURORA doing guest vocals, it does sound like BMTH doing their best to get on board the “V.A.N.” It’s solid enough of a song. “AmEN!” is the closest BMTH will likely ever get to replicating their Suicide Season or There Is A Hell… sessions, also calling on Lil Uzi Vert and Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo for greater emphasis and even louder soundscapes. “R.i.p. (duskCOre RemIx)” is the one song here that feels out of place; although the glitchy soundscape does fit right at home, the guitars are muddy, chopped and screwed, the vocals are painfully lacking, and overall, it just sounds terrible. “Dig It” closes the album and has some promise with a grand crescendo throughout its runtime and deserves its extended runtime (minus the two minutes of silence of course).

Although it does feel weird to say but Bring Me The Horizon are kind of playing catchup these days. Ever since 2015’s That’s the Spirit, this band has been experimenting with making metal more accessible. Although their efforts are not spectacular, I commend them for their resolve. However, with artists like Bad Omens and Poppy doing the BMTH shtick better than BMTH, and receiving mainstream recognition for it, where does that leave Bring Me The Horizon? Well it leaves us with Post Human: NeX GEn, an album pushing boundaries with its hyperpop production, but it feels surface level as if to only ramp up the volume.

Best Songs: YOUtopia, a bulleT w/ my namE, LosT, Dig It

Saxy S Saxy S / May 29, 2024 07:14 PM
Memory Palace

Intervals might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of djent-y progressive metal, but it's about time that you change that. Djent as a concept is never going to fully be embraced by most since it relies heavily on technical rhythmic patterns and, usually, lacking in any kind of melodic device to hold a song/album together. Intervals are a band trying to fill in that niche and they succeed mostly with their newest album, Memory Palace. The eight (8) new tracks have a very simplistic foundation, and that allows the listener to really focus in on the pin point precision between the guitars, percussion and bass. Guitar leads are varied, but do retain many of their core values to keep songs like "Mnemonic" and "Nootropic" sounding fresh throughout. The song themselves are not progressive wank fests, where the instrumentalists wail freely; guitar solos are tasteful with variety to really accentuate dynamics and growth as Aaron Marshall shows off their technical prowess.

Where the album falters has to do with the production and compositions. Fist, the production is lacking in a low end. Intervals do have a really nice synth lead such as on "Side Quest," but the bass is heavily lacking, since in this style of music, rhythm guitar simply duplicates whatever the bass is doing anyway, so bass can get lost in the shuffle very quickly. Also, even though songs are solid on their own, Memory Palace as a whole stays in a very comfortable key/tempo range throughout the runtime, meaning that the album can start to feel rather redundant about halfway through. Fortunately for Intervals, this is somewhat negated by the record having a nice brisk runtime; at just under forty (40) minutes, once you start noticing these repetitive tropes, Memory Palace is over. 

Otherwise, it's a really good starter album for approaching Djent and Intervals in general. I still would not consider their best record so long as The Shape of Colour exists, but the musicianship is really well put together, even despite some personal quibbles.

Best Songs: Mnemonic, Nootropic, Side Quest, Chronophobia

Saxy S Saxy S / May 28, 2024 07:02 PM
From Hell I Rise

Post-Seasons in the Abyss studio output from Slayer took an immediate downturn for my liking and even with the might of Paul Bostaph drafted in to fill the seemingly unfillable boots of Dave Lombardo, the band continued to embrace mediocrity to my ears and my interest level registered zero beeps whenever word of new Slayer leaked into my vicinity. The prospect of the usually considered weaker guitarist from the classic line-up releasing a solo album left me with little expectation of any quality given the output he had collaborated with for the past 30 years or so at least. News that one of my least favoured vocalists (Mark Osegueda’s vocals with Death Angel have been an eternal curse in my book) was being drafted in alongside the consistent yet never remarkable Phil Demmel and the bassist from Hellyeah fleshing out the numbers, only served to further dilute the prospects of me giving From Hell I Rise any airtime whatsoever.

Then I heard the single Idle Hands and shifted a few inches closer to my box that I could foresee me soon being encouraged to climb back into.

Already hearing that Osegueda sounded like a man reborn, near in fact to a much younger and more angst-ridden Tom Araya it should be noted, alongside a consistent wall of riffs and functional yet never spectacular lead work (albeit still a lot more interesting than the work on the last seven Slayer albums) displayed against the usual service from Mr Bostaph on the drums, I soon found KK’s debut solo release getting a lot more plays than first predicted.

Raging thrash metal tracks such as Crucifixation were completely unexpected slabs of intensity long feared dead since the prime years of King in the 80’s. The social commentary aspect of the album’s vocals suggests a much younger age bracket is playing the music but with most of the band pushing sixty this is testimony to the youthful ambition that flows through the veins of the collaborators present. Toxic seethes and writhes in simmering frustration at all manner of social institutions and perceived cultural ills. The groove metal riffing of Two Fists helps drill home the already clear and present message in the track, kicking the intensity up a couple of gears when it takes precedence in the track. Whilst clearly a thrash metal album end to end, From Hell I Rise explores a couple of cross-border forays as well to mix up the content nicely.

Look, it isn’t flawless. But what it most certainly is for me is an unexpected win. Forget showmanship and wankery levels of technicality being on show because that was never what Slayer or Kerry King were originally about. Clearly showing there is life in the old dog yet, FHiR does the basics perfectly well enough and provides the listener with a consistent level of entertainment for over forty minutes.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 26, 2024 02:46 PM
Third World Posse

By 1992 Brazilian thrash metallers Sepultura had quite literally changed the world, at least as far as the then-struggling thrash metal genre went. A commanding grunge rock wave had all but washed away the once thriving thrash metal scene with most of the more senior bands now resorting to dilution in order to stay afloat but these four heroes from Belo Horizonte had managed to not only stay afloat but to give the thrash world the shot in the arm it so sorely needed. I first discovered Sepultura through their classic 1989 third album "Beneath The Remains" & quickly indulged in their much rawer earlier material, all of which I really enjoyed. 1991's inspired "Arise" album hit me for six &, in doing so, almost managed to match "Beneath The Remains" (which still sits in my top five for the thrash metal genre overall to this day) for sheer class. So, needless to say that when I heard that Sepultura were coming to my hometown of Sydney in 1992 it saw my excitement levels reaching a fever pitch. The fact that these foreigners felt the occasion was significant enough to warrant a dedicated Australian tour E.P. left a 16 year-old me feeling somehow special so, despite the fact that "Third World Posse" didn't contain much in the way of new original material, I picked it up on CD as soon as it was released & indulged in it consistently throughout the next few years too. It's been eons since I've listened to it now but I thought I'd keep my obsessive completist urges at bay by giving it a revisit this week.

"Third World Posse" is a five-track, fifteen-minute E.P. that acts as somewhat of an extended single that's built around one of Sepultura's most popular songs in "Dead Embryonic Cells" which was drawn from the "Arise" album. It's backed with a cover version of Dead Kennedy's "Drug Me" & three live recordings that would appear to be taken from the same Barcelona show that made up the outstanding 1992 live video "Under Siege (Live at Barcelona)" which I also bought. While I've always been a big fan of "Dead Embryonic Cells", I have to admit that I've never felt that it was one of the strongest tracks on "Arise" & don't think of it as the classic that most people seem to. It's certainly a very solid inclusion though & it has the desired effect in kicking off an E.P. which was obviously intended to draw in a new audience through a fairly cheap release that coincided with their tour. Sepultura's version of "Drug Me" is also very impressive, coming across as a high-octane crossover thrash assault that's chock-full of energy & aggression. The three live cuts are all of a very high quality too to be honest with the magnificent "Inner Self" from the "Beneath The Remains" album unsurprisingly representing the highlight of the EP. "Troops of Doom" had been given a tidy-up during a session that took place in August 1990 & the version we receive here is much more in line with that re-recording than it is with the youthful enthusiasm of the original that appeared on Sepultura's 1986 debut album "Morbid Visions". It's a really good thrash song in this format too & it isn't let down by the closing track either, a very successful heavy metal cover version of the title track from Motorhead's 1986 "Orgasmatron" album that sees the band taking the song in a slightly different direction & one that saw it taking on a whole new personality.

So you see, while "Third World Posse" may not offer anything terribly new for the more experienced & obsessive fans out there, it certainly served its purpose very well. For me personally, it acted as somewhat of a calling of the guard before one of the live shows that I've placed at the very top rung of my metal experiences over the years. Sepultura may never have been the same after that tour but I guess those days can never be taken away from me & I'd encourage anyone that has similar feelings about Sepultura's peak period to give this E.P. a couple of listens, if only for old time's sake. For those that are new to the band but have been lured into the thrash world by bands like Slayer or the gods of the Teutonic scene like Kreator & Sodom, this record should also offer plenty of appeal to you as well & will no doubt open up a brand-new can of worms for you too.

Daniel Daniel / May 25, 2024 08:10 PM

Before gradually evolving into a progressive tech-death band, Job for a Cowboy released a deathcore classic that was an early result of the subgenre's popularity. Any fan of deathcore can recognize their EP Doom as a brutal masterpiece!

As much as the other band members perform well in the EP, the heavy complex drumming by Elliot Sellers really stands out side-by-side with the guitars. Different variations of blasts and kicks can be heard, and like snowflakes, one is never the same as the other, which is what makes the drumming so unique. That and the use of cymbals, all of which give deathcore some rare literal kicks.

The intro "Catharsis for the Buried" starts the release eerily as someone is getting buried alive and screams "GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!" Then comes my favorite track here, "Entombment of a Machine", with some riffing and breakdowns I really enjoy, including that final devastating one at the end. The song also has rare audibility in bass and common usage of horror imagery in the lyrics. "Relinquished" is also interesting with the intro riffing and the song's brief usage of lo-fi and funk-ish beats in the drumming. "Knee Deep" you might already know from that Spongebob "Band Geeks" meme video. I just love its opening riffing!

"The Rising Tide" has some breakdown riffing throwing back to earlier tracks, but it's still killer, especially in another brutal closing breakdown. The growls and screams of Jonathan Davy fit so well with the lyrics. Starting off with a bit of melodeath is "Suspended by the Throat" before more of the heavy darkness. You don't wanna miss out on the re-release bonus track "Entities". Recorded a year after the original EP, you can hear some riffs hinting at the band's later tech-death sound, as well as a rare guitar solo.

Doom is filled with awesome pulverizing deathcore. Fans of the genre should definitely get it and listen to it as many times as they please. I'm glad to discovering this true gem and I look forward to hearing their later tech-death. Only the strongest and most loyal to deathcore can survive!

Favorites: "Entombment of a Machine", "Knee Deep", "The Rising Tide", "Entities"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 25, 2024 12:22 PM

Canberra death metallers Armoured Angel were very much a local icon during the late 1980's & the whole of the 1990's. They're often touted as being the very first Australian extreme metal band which is probably a little debatable given that they started out as a more traditional heavy metal band & with a very different line-up to the one that was at least partially responsible for pushing the death metal genre in this country. Armoured Angel's first demo tape "Baptism in Blood" (released way back in 1985) is a showcase of those early attempts at heavy metal but it wasn't until 1989's "Wings of Death" & 1990's "Communion" demos (both fairly iconic releases in this part of the world) that we'd see them blazing a trail through the world of thrash metal. That transition would take its next logical step with their first proper release though & it would see Armoured Angel properly defining the sound that would make them arguably the most celebrated of all Australian death metal artists. The highly regarded four-song "Stigmartyr" E.P. would see the light of day in 1992 & would ultimately go on to become the jewel in Armoured Angel's crown.

I had the pleasure of witnessing Armoured Angel in a live environment on many occasions over the years, an experience that was invariably rewarding & was generally a fairly significant event in the Sydney metal calendar too. Their uncommon three-piece setup was a touch unusual with drummer Joel Green handling the vocal duties & allowing guitarist & brother Matt Green & founding member & bassist Glen "Lucy" Luck to front the stage either side of him. The most memorable event I can recall was an infamous night at the Phoenician Club where Armoured Angel & fellow Aussies Destrier blew Florida's Satanic heavyweights Deicide off the stage on their "Once Upon The Cross" tour but that's a story for another time. The point I'm trying to make here is that the release of the "Stigmartyr" E.P. was highly anticipated by the local metal community which saw me picking up a CD copy immediately upon release. It didn't muck around in making an impression on this aspiring 16 year-old metal musician either & I'd suggest that it played an important role in convincing me that I needed to form my own death metal band. I mean, if these three dudes from Canberra could make a CD that was of a world class standard then so could I, right?

For all of its influence & celebration at a local level, the "Stigmartyr" E.P. is only a very short overview of where Armoured Angel were at at the time with the four song tracklisting only amounting to a mere fifteen minutes in duration. It's the consistent quality of those fifteen minutes that matters here though with all four songs being worthy of your attention. "Stigmartyr" saw Armoured Angel maintaining some of their previous thrash metal tools but utilizing them within a death metal context. It's by no means the most brutal death metal release you'll ever hear but that's not the intention either. This music is all about atmosphere with repetition being used to create tension & with subtle changes creeping in over time. The riffs are kept fairly simple but the band are a tight-knit unit by this point & execute them splendidly. Joel's vocals possess a whispery quality that's always intelligible & gives Armoured Angel a level of accessibility that's not afforded to all death metal acts. His beats are kept quite basic & uncluttered which allows the hooks in the riffs & song-writing to really dig their teeth in & also keeps life as a drumming front man fairly easily achieved in a live environment. Probably the only weakness is with Matt's guitar solos as they're not terribly sophisticated & their pentatonic melodic structure doesn't exactly accentuate a death metal atmosphere. His rhythm guitar sound is nice & thick though which gives the riffs plenty of weight.

The E.P. kicks off beautifully with opener "Hymn of Hate" being a very solid example of what you can expect from "Stigmartyr". It's closely followed by "Beyond the Sacrament" which is comfortably the least impressive of the four songs but is still pretty decent before the title track steps the aggression up a bit, showcasing an early Morbid Angel influence along the way. It's the brilliant closer "Ordained in Darkness" that's the real gold here though, showcasing a clear understanding of dynamics & building a trance-inducing soundscape of darkness in the process. It's an amazing journey in my opinion & I've always regarded it as one of this countries most important metal songs. That's not to scoff at the other three mind you. These four tracks are all built on an accomplished understanding of song-writing concepts with the composition being tailored to highlight the hooks. That's right... I said "hooks"... in death metal... You see Armoured Angel are all about them in a similar way to English death metal masters Bolt Thrower who are probably the band that I most closely associate with the Armoured Angel sound given their mutual penchant for repetition & melody within what are still essentially death metal riffs.

Sound interesting? Well, it should because this is not Australia's premier death metal release for no reason with all of Armoured Angel's post-"Baptism in Blood" releases being high quality representations of Aussie death metal. If you enjoy some of our other bands like Slaughter Lord or Mortification then you owe it to yourself to check out "Stigmarytr" too. 

Daniel Daniel / May 24, 2024 09:12 PM
The Red in the Sky Is Ours

Although most of the world were first exposed to Swedish melodic death metal legends At The Gates through their undisputedly classic 1995 fourth album "Slaughter of the Soul", it would be their 1992 debut full-length "The Red in the Sky is Ours" that would first bring them to my attention back in the early-to-mid 1990's & I recall really enjoying the experience too with the record receiving a number of repeat visits. This was a very different At The Gates to the one that would explode across the globe a few years later but I had none of that future context at the time which I think helped me to understand the record more than someone that would try to go back to it after having been converted by the wonderful "Slaughter of the Soul" which I still regard as the pinnacle of the melodeath sound to this day. I also have some unusual opinions on "The Red in the Sky is Ours" that I think hold some merit & need to be heard so let's take a look at it in a little more detail.

At The Gates' debut album is a fairly raw death metal album that possesses a lot of street credibility for a number of reasons but the production job is actually pretty clean which makes the fairly complex compositions easily decipherable. The rawness comes more from the vocals & performances which keep "The Red in the Sky is Ours" firmly in the underground. Most pundits will have you believe that At The Gates' debut was simply a classic old-school death metal album but I have to disagree with that claim as there's much more to it than that. The arrangements are so erratic yet also so sophisticated that I'm constantly left feeling like I'm listening to a technical death metal release & there's a very clear reason for that. "The Red in the Sky is Ours" is very obviously an attempt to emulate Atheist's classic "Unquestionable Presence" sophomore album in my opinion with a lot of the tools being utilized having been clearly borrowed from the Florida tech death legends. Take the basslines of Jonas Björler (The Haunted) for example which often attempt to pull off similar flourishes of technicality with the guitarists opting for similar layers of melodic counterplay too, occasionally hinting at the melodic death metal sound that they'd play a huge role in developing over the coming years although never consistently enough to justify the claims that "The Red in the Sky is Ours" is a legitimate Swedish melodeath release. The one element that At The Gates can't manage to replicate is the musicianship though which sees them offering a much looser outcome. Don't get me wrong, these guys can certainly play but pulling it all together tightly in the studio is another thing altogether. Strangely though, this seems to work for At The Gates here as it gives the album an additional layer of authenticity, the sort that the underground tape trading scene was built on & one that I very much understand. The vocals of Tomas Lindberg (Lock Up/Disfear/The Lurking Fear/Grotesque/Liers in Wait/The Crown) are also extremely raw & don't sound anywhere near as polished as they would soon become which only adds to this underground atmosphere. There's an unhinged madness to his rabid delivery which isn't as accessible as we'd hear from him on later efforts & leaves him as the weaker link in the early At The Gates chain in my opinion.

"The Red in the Sky is Ours" is a very consistent record as I don't think there are any weak tracks included as such. There aren't any absolute belters either but there are just enough very solid death metal numbers to see me thoroughly enjoying the outcome nonetheless. The one-two punch of my personal favourite "Within" into the equally strong "Windows" is probably the best part of the record although I also really enjoy the title track, "Neverwhere" & the end of the album which is made up of the highly progressive "Night Comes, Blood Black" & "City of Screaming Statues", a track that was also included on At The Gates' excellent 1991 "Gardens of Grief" demo which fans of the band should really check out.

But where does "The Red in the Sky is Ours" sit in the overall At The Gates back catalogue then? Well, I'm not gonna surprise anyone by suggesting that it eclipses "Slaughter of the Soul" as that's simply not the case but I don't actually think it's all that far behind it terms of how much appeal it offers me. I've never been the biggest fan of melodic death metal so the more technical death metal approach of the debut is more in line with my usual musical preferences which, I'll admit, gives it a little bit of an advantage over At The Gates' other records & perhaps that's the reason that I've always considered it to be their second-best release. For those that have always had similar battles with the melodeath subgenre to myself, don't let that discourage you from giving "The Red in the Sky is Ours" a few runs because it holds some very different cards & I tend to associate much more closely with bands like the afore-mentioned Atheist, fellow Swedes Liers in Wait & the more technical melodeath artists like Arsis than I do a Dark Tranquillity or In Flames. Whatever you call it though, it deserves to be heard & shouldn't be left lurking in the shadows while "Slaughter of the Soul" takes all of the spotlight.

Daniel Daniel / May 23, 2024 08:38 PM
United Abominations

A friend of mine shared with me a couple tracks from this album, and they sound good enough to check out the rest of what it has to offer, as well as make another dive into one of Megadeth's albums. How does it compare to a classic like Peace Sells? Let's find out...

United Abominations marked the entrance of the Drover brothers; guitarist Glen and drummer Shawn. They were the founding members of power metal band Eidolon. But months after the release of this album, Glen left Megadeth to focus on family life, which also caused Eidolon to disband, apart from a 2015 reunion show and single. Those brothers knew how to add catchiness and heaviness to the less thrashy riffing the band had for 15 years up to that point. Freshness was added to the otherwise mundane.

"Sleepwalker" opens the album as a heavy yet melodic standout, as the snarls of frontman Dave Mustaine soar through the verses. The thrashy riffs and leads last heard in Rust in Peace are in full force, as is the tempo variation. All in an honorable highlight! What's next is "Washington is Next", which picks up some fast speed in the riffs and drums, while having some Maiden-powered melody, especially in the chorus that adds to the energy. The earlier speedy riffing is blended with the 1990 technical shredding. There are some decent choruses in "Never Walk Alone... A Call to Arms", but it's much more suitable for the radio.

The title track is the first of the two songs my friend showed me, which is fine, but the chorus is too repetitive to do any good. The second of those songs, "Gears of War" is a slower heavy/melodic composition with a brighter chorus. I like that one more. "Blessed are the Dead" is where Mustaine's vocals often get deeper or less gravelly. The song once again has the band's 90s hard rock/metal sound. "Play for Blood" has the groove-ish riffing of Symphony X, but none of that band's epic orchestration.

"A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)" is a re-recording of a song from the band's 1994 album Youthanasia. This edition has greater energy and guest vocals by Cristina Scabbia from gothic/alt-metal band Lacuna Coil. Honestly, this is the kind of re-recording we need, one that enhances the song with a guest vocalist. Well done! "Amerikhastan" follows as an unnecessary attempt at a political attack, and it's hard for me to listen to it without cringing in disgust. We get one more memorable track in "You're Dead", reviving the early 90s thrash discretely yet pleasantly. "Burnt Ice" has impressive riffing that is sadly practically obscured by everything else. A strong yet uneven wrap-up.

All in all, United Abominations is a pretty good album with some weak moments. I suppose one day I can check out one of their surrounding albums like The System Has Failed or Endgame, maybe even another one of their earlier classics. But for now, I can savor the more high-quality moments of this album, helped out by the Drover brothers. Shawn would still stick around for the next few chapters of this journey of Megadeth....

Favorites: "Sleepwalker", "Washington is Next", "Gears of War", "A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)", "You're Dead"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 23, 2024 11:59 AM

The 1991 debut album "The Ten Commandments" from Buffalo death metallers Malevolent Creation was a pretty big record in my household with both Ben & I finding a lot of appeal in their thrashy take on the exciting American brand of death metal that was dominating the underground market at the time. Based that experience, I was super-keen for another dose by the time 1992's "Retribution" sophomore record hit the record store shelves & went about purchasing it on cassette post-haste. If anything, "Retribution" hit me even harder than their debut & it's subsequently gone on to become my favourite Malevolent Creation release to this day. It saw the band dropping the majority of their thrash influence for a much purer death metal sound that was exactly the sort of stuff I was into at the time (& arguably always will be). It's a relentless record that balances its brutality with a strong sense of memorability & professionalism that immediately reenforced the suspicions that Malevolent Creation were going to be a mainstay of the US death metal scene for many years to come.

I've always thought of "Retribution" as somewhat of a classic release but unfortunately this revisit has seen me reevaluating that position. It's certainly a very solid effort that ticks all of my boxes but the reality is that, even though it offers an impressive level of class & consistency throughout the nine tracks included, there's not really enough genuine classics here to justify me placing it alongside the Death's & Morbid Angel's. Instead, I feel that "Retribution" placed Malevolent Creation at the front of the second tier with the highlight moments seeing the album lapping at the heels of the bigger name players. Perhaps the reason I've tended to think of it as a top tier record over the years has been driven by the way the tracklisting kicks off with the album beginning with its four strongest songs. Opener "Eve of the Apocalypse" is a stunning example of the US death metal sound & is arguably the band's career highlight while I also regard the more controlled "Coronation of Our Domain" as a genuine classic. And what about that breakdown in the iconic "Slaughter of Innocence", a song that I tried to convince my Neuropath band mates to cover back in the mid-1990's. The back end of the album tends to sit more within itself with this material lacking the obvious hooks of the earlier songs, even if it's all still pretty strong solid stuff in its own right.

The influence of the first couple of albums from fellow Buffalo death metallers Cannibal Corpse is obvious throughout & so is that of the self-titled Deicide record which leads to comparisons with the debut album from Florida's Monstrosity "Imperial Doom" which shared similar sources of inspiration. The vocals of front man Brettt Hoffmann are the excellent with his monstrous death growl proving to be both aggressive & easily intelligible. Former lead guitarist Jeff Juszkiewicz had been replaced by former Solstice & future Cannibal Corpse shredder Rob Barrett with Barrett adding further weight to an already imposing death metal sound. His Solstice band mate & drummer Alex Marquez has also come across to fill the stool that was previously filled by Mark Simpson with Marquez's pummeling performance only advancing Malevolent Creation's death metal credentials, despite the fact that his chops weren't as yet as tight as your metronomical modern-day skinsman.

There's not much between "The Ten Commandments" & "Retribution" to be honest but I still tend to favour "Retribution", perhaps only because its approach is a little more in line with my personal taste profile. There can be no doubt at all that these two are the band's best records though & I think it's a bit of a shame that Malevolent Creation have never amounted to more given the solid way they began their recording career & their longevity in the scene. I've generally checked out each of their eleven remaining studio albums as they hit the streets but have unfortunately found them to be pretty hit & miss with none of them being strong enough to be regarded as essential releases.

Daniel Daniel / May 22, 2024 08:29 PM
Cometh the Storm

High on Fire are a band I have derived a deal of enjoyment from, yet I haven't given them nearly as much attention as my taste dictates they deserve, not really checking out much since 2007's Death Is This Communion. I don't really have an explanation for this, it's just the way it's been. Anyway, Cometh the Storm is another really solid offering from the Matt Pike-led threesome and is yet another that is right up my street.

The basic sound here is sludgy stoner metal and within that framework there is a fair bit of variety, but with the riffs constantly being king. The production is of very high quality, so those fuzzed-up riffs are given some extra clout with a beefy sound job that still allows plenty of clarity and depth. The variation within the songwriting is illustrated very early on where the relentless chugging of Burning Down with it's myriad stoned-out solos leads into the almost thrashy Trismegistus that, with Matt Pike's grizzled and throaty, but quite shrill, bellows, makes the track sound a bit like Motorhead (a comparison that is even more obvious on The Beating). This then gives way to the psychedelically-loaded stoned-out grooves of the brooding title track and the unexpected, yet perfectly suited, Turkish folk music of Karanlık yol. Each is handled impressively as High on Fire demonstrate exactly how accomplished a band they now are with none of the tracks sounding out of place or mishandled. A quick word for ex-Melvins drummer Coady Willis who has come in to replace founding member Des Kensel and has dropped straight into the HoF groove with the band not missing a step despite the change and with Willis' busy and precise performance being the foundation on which the album is built.

Ultimately, this is top drawer stoner metal, skillfully performed, with great production values and a tough sludgy edge that draws upon the stoned-out psychedelics of past times and drapes them over a solid and harder than you may expect metallic core that is able to appeal to both stoners and moshpit denizens alike. I can't really define why, but this is just one of those albums that feels so authentically and unapologetically metal that it is impossible to do it down in any way.

Sonny Sonny / May 21, 2024 03:20 PM

Playing like 1990’s, Seasons in the Abyss era Slayer meets the equally stripped back Chaos A.D. from Sepultura that was to come out a year after Renewal, Kreator’s experimental album epitomises the change of direction that was so common from the established thrash metal old guard. Toying with a toned-down guitar and a very Tom Araya esque vocal style, Renewal also deploys some changes of pace to keep things interesting as well.

 Fact is though, that when left to the simple stuff, Kreator’s best output on Renewal was when they delved back into the more familiar territory that they had made their name on. The basic riffing of Reflection simply does not need to get lost in the meandering nature of the track. The superb Zero to None is only really let down by Mille’s vocal work, the rest of it stands up well as a (still down tuned) thrasher. I do not really have any problem with the industrial intro track that proceeds it either. If there was any attempt to make such a style more of a staple of the album, then it would soon get old I feel though.

My main problem with Renewal is how amateur it sounds. Notwithstanding that I am listening to a remastered version (which usually means “messed up” in my experience), the album still sounds like a compilation of b-sides and demos that never left the cutting room floor and have been cobbled together by the record label to get every dollar out of the band. It is hard for me to fathom that these tracks were deemed of enough quality to be released at all in some regards.

Severely lacking on the intensity front and hindered by some clunky structures overall, Kreator’s sixth studio album lurches from track to track. Unable to hide the unconventional nature of their guitar playing in the stripped back sound only adds to this feeling of unprofessionalism. For me, the first five Kreator records set a high bar for the band and this record falls well short of the expectations set by its predecessors.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 19, 2024 06:45 PM
Soul Sacrifice

Coventry stoner doom masters Cathedral's debut album "Forest of Equilibrium" absolutely floored me back in 1991. I simply found it so refreshing to hear a record that was so inspired by the past yet presented its influences in a way that sounded entirely fresh & which contained so much depth. It certainly helped that it's one of the doomiest records I've ever heard in my life as I'm sure you all know of my passion for gratuitous waves of deep audio oppression by now. I'd purchase "Forest of Equilibrium" on cassette shortly after it was released & it would immediately become a life-long favourite of mine. I'd frantically go hunting for more of this sound too which would lead me to Cathedral's marvelous 1990 "In Memorium" demo tape which I also regard as a genuine doom metal classic. That would unfortunately have to do me for a while, that is until Earache Records released their "Gods of Grind" compilation CD the following year, a release that included E.P.'s from Carcass, Entombed, Confessor &... what do you know, huh? A new Cathedral E.P.!!

Contrary to popular opinion, the "Soul Sacrifice" E.P. wasn't recorded during the "Forest of Equilibrium" sessions, instead being laid down in January 1992. The version of "Soul Sacrifice" that appears on the E.P. is slightly different to the one that I regard as being the only real blemish on the debut album. The differences don't leave it commanding a different response from me though I'm afraid. I simply can't get into that more chuggy, up-tempo & groovy stoner metal shit. The other three songs are all brand new which left me with considerable excitement. Sadly though, two of the three take a similar musical direction to the title track so I find myself struggling with both "Golden Blood (Flooding)" & particularly "Autumn Twilight". Lee Dorrian's heavily pitchy vocal stylings are done no favours by this material either. Thankfully though, the remaining song "Frozen Rapture" is an absolute doom metal monster of the most epic proportions imaginable. In fact, it's seriously one of the greatest examples of the genre I've ever heard in my life & I can't imagine why it never managed to make it onto a full-length album. Sure, there's a short stoner metal groove riff accompanied by s cheesy cowbell about two thirds of the way through the song but it's all over very quickly with things returning to pure desperation & depression. I can't tell you how life-changing this song has been for me across my life. It still gives me chills to this day.

So, the "Soul Sacrifice" E.P. sounds fairly inessential really, doesn't it? It kinda says something that I find it to be comfortably the weaker of the four E.P.'s on the "Gods of Grind compilation too but "Soul Sacrifice" falls into a fairly unique bracket of releases for me in that it can genuinely be carried by the one stunning piece, despite the fact that I get very little out of the remaining inclusions. It's also worth mentioning that the online consensus that the E.P. is a doom metal release is overly ambitious given that three of the four songs clearly fall into the groovy stoner metal camp. "Golden Blood (Flooding)" has a fantastic doom section towards the end that sits right up there in the top echelon of the genre but sadly it's wasted on a lengthy track that spends far more time in Groovetown. I'm sure stoner nuts that bow down at the altar of bands like Sleep, Church of Misery & Orange Goblin might have less of a problem with this material than I do but I still don't see "Soul Sacrifice" competing with the better releases from the stoner metal genre. It's merely an inessential platform for Cathedral to showcase one of its finest moments in my opinion so I'll always keep the CD handy, even if I might use the skip button a few times (often to return to the start of "Frozen Rapture" for another run).

Daniel Daniel / May 18, 2024 08:47 AM
You Won't Go Before You're Supposed To

Knocked Loose are the sort of beatdown hardcore band that I will inevitably show some hostility to on the outset. They gained quick popularity near the end of the 2010s, especially with the release of 2019’s A Different Shade of Blue. It was a good display of aggression, but in terms of execution, Knock Loose were certainly in the learning phases.

Now maybe that’s me being too demanding in hopes that Knocked Loose will provide me with something beyond “ARF ARF” and down tuned breakdowns to bang your head into a brick wall. This is beatdown hardcore after all. I will say though that seeing You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To clocking in at just under half-an-hour gave me some intrigue. After all, some of my favourite “true hardcore” albums are of the short-and-sweet variety. And since I’m not allowed to leave until I’m supposed to (this review is finished,) I might as well provide some insight.

I think that heavy metal, more than any other genre, needs to give its listeners a chance to breathe. It’s already characterized by guitar distortion, drummers slamming the kit with the force of a thousand hammers, and abrasive vocals. But when an entire record is nothing but this, it can make for an unfulfilling experience. If a record uses dynamics well, it will allow these breakdowns of force to hit with even greater authority. With You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To, Knocked Loose have one dynamic only and it’s alarming.

What this means is the intensity is great near the start, but by the end of the record, the listener is drained and could not imagine going to the start and doing it all over again. No one believes that this narrator is this angry all the time.

Speaking of the narrator, Bryan Garris’ vocals are painfully lacking. Like with the instrumentals, Garris screams in a monotonous timbre throughout the entire album with no deviation. The albums two best tracks (“Suffocate” and “Slaughterhouse 2”) were the ones that featured an additional vocalist to run counterpoint to Garris. The change in timbre gave those songs a little more variety and made them more memorable than the songs without guest features.

And as for the mixing, Knocked Loose are still in the infancy stage almost five years between albums. Loud equals good is not a selling point. There is so much unchecked clipping in the guitars that it started to become uncomfortable after a while. It turned into an unwinnable battle between me and the volume controls.

And what of the songs themselves? For an album that prides itself on being a relentless assault of noise from the word go, it doesn’t really say much. Riffs might be scattered and quickly switch between punk grooves and metalcore breakdowns, but they are almost always hovering around the same tempos. And Knocked Loose are also not going to let you remember any of these riffs either, because as soon as one starts to become earworm-y, it’s on to the next breakdown and more sporadic neck pain. Will we ever hear that leit motif again? Probably not, but if you want to hear it again, why not try listening to the album from the top? I think I’ll pass for now.

Knocked Loose are well outside of my comfort zone when it comes to metalcore. And I’m aware that most of my criticisms of You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To might be what some Knocked Loose enjoyers want to hear, and I think that’s great. These songs would be ridiculous in a live setting. However, if you want a little bit more substance in your metalcore, I suggest looking anywhere else.

Best Songs: Suffocate, Slaughterhouse 2

Saxy S Saxy S / May 17, 2024 07:49 PM

While I wouldn't ever suggest that industrial metal is one of my favourite genres, there are plenty of artists from within that realm that appeal to me but none of them come close to the sheer class & inventiveness of Birmingham's Godflesh who were at least partially responsible for birthing the genre in the first place. I fell hopelessly in love with Godflesh through their classic 1989 debut album "Streetcleaner" which saw me quickly investigating their seminal 1988 self-titled E.P., a release that soon proved itself to contain some similarly masterful material. I'd subsequently get onboard with 1991's stunning "Slavestate" & very solid "Cold World" E.P.'s as soon as they hit the streets as well as Godflesh's brilliant "Slateman" single in what was an imposing initial run of amazing releases that saw Ben & I thoroughly obsessing over Godflesh during the first half of the 1990's. 1992's "Pure" sophomore album would play a large role in that obsession too after I picked it up on cassette shortly after release.

"Pure" sees band leader Justin Broadrick (Jesu/Fall of Because/Napalm Death) embracing his experimental side by further incorporating elements he'd hinted at in the past to create a record that very much owns its own unique identity. It's calling cards come in the form of its repetitive, draw-out song-structures & abrasive layers of guitar work, both of which would provide the inspiration for the post-metal genre that would be developed in the coming years. The heavily hip hop-inspired drum programming & crushingly heavy basslines of G.C. Green (Fall of Because) are perhaps even further accentuated than on past releases with the atmosphere reflecting the coldness of the magnificent cover artwork beautifully. Broadrick's vocals now alternate between a hardcore-ish bark & a wispy & intentionally pitchy clean delivery that has remained with him throughout his career.

"Pure" is not an immediate release by any stretch of the imagination as it can take some time to open up, even upon return visits. It can be most closely associated with 1991's "Cold World" E.P. given that they were both recorded in the same session. There's not even anything that hints at being a weaker track on the lengthy 80-minute tracklisting with some of Godflesh's strongest material being scattered evenly across the album to reward the patient listener for their committed attention. The heavily dance music-inspired "Mothra", the post-rock infused "Don't Bring Me Flowers" & the enormous 21-minute dark ambient closer "Pure II" are simply devastating & represent my personal highlights while some of the other more significant tracks like "Predominance" & "Monotremata" also tick all of my boxes to qualify for classic status.

While 1989's "Streetcleaner" is perhaps destined to remain the pinnacle of Godflesh's illustrious back catalogue for all eternity (closely followed by the underrated "The Earache Peel Sessions" E.P. for me personally), "Pure" doesn't sit all that far behind in my opinion. In fact, I'd suggest that it slightly surpasses the self-titled & "Slavestate" E.P.'s in my esteem these days, comfortably eclipsing "Cold World" too. It's a marvelous example of what true industrial metal music can achieve. You know... music that simply sounds & feels like it's been created by layering samples of factory sounds over the top of each other to create a dark & brooding atmosphere? Godflesh did this better & far more consistently than anyone else during the first half of the 1990's &, in doing so, etched their name into my soul for a lifetime. When I return to these records every so often I feel a calmness & a warmth inside, even in the coldest & harshest of musical landscapes, & it's this achievement above all else that represents Justin Broadrick's most revering calling card. If you only ever find the time to investigate one industrial metal artist then it simply must be this one.

Daniel Daniel / May 17, 2024 07:43 PM

The riffs just really aren’t that exciting, the production sounds "tinny", and the vocals are really annoying. I don't mind high-pitched singing, but this guys inaudible voice is just irritating.

On a positive note, there are a few reasonably catchy chorus’s, and although they help me find a bit of stability in a song that I'm probably not paying much attention to, it’s really not worth listening through a few minutes of generic riffs and uninspired songwriting for the sake of a chorus.

The sad thing is, I actually quite like Elegy. But this album is just so boring and bland. There's countless progressive power metal bands out there, and there's other boring and bland albums that are better than this one. An underrated band, but you wouldn't guess it from hearing 'Lost'.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 16, 2024 07:38 PM
Collision Course

It’s 2004, and one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Linkin Park, have collaborated with one of the biggest rappers on the planet, Jay-Z, to produce one of the most shameless and pointless cash-grabs on the planet, ‘Collision Course’.

I mean, I like both artists, and this EP, which basically takes music and lyrics from both artists repertoire and mashes them together, does work at times, but honestly, it is just a shameless attempt to make some dollar, and given the choice I’d much rather just listen to each respective artists work.

But for what it’s worth, since Linkin Park’s music is already fairly rap-oriented, this really is just Linkin Park with a second rapper. Simple. At times the music and lyrics blend well and it’s interesting to hear what amalgamation the musicians have come up with, but at other times, it’s cringe-inducing and cheesy. But as I said before, I’d rather just listen to some actual Linkin Park music, given the choice.

I’m glad it’s not a full-length album, that’s for sure. At 22 minutes in duration (and a “making of” DVD in some cases) it’s a harmless enough EP, but overall this is just a novelty item for fans of either artist.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 16, 2024 07:37 PM
Charismatic Leaders

I've been hoping to see Wheel thrive for a while now. My introduction to this Finnish band was through their full length debut, Moving Backwards, from 2019 and described by one friend as having a "mighty fine Tool impression," which immediately piqued my interest. Now I had a difficult time hearing the Tool comparisons on that debut, but was still impressed by the bands mainstream adjacent approach to progressive metal and was just catchy enough to survive my short list of the best albums of that year. 2021's Resident Human did not have the same sort of reaction and I found it rather pedestrian and boring, almost like the most recent Soen album, Memorial, from last year.

And now in current times, it's time for the bands third studio release. This time, the production is all in house and the music in general is wide in scope. I was expecting something a little bit different from the start, but what caught me off guard was crushing post-metal influence via The Ocean Collective on tracks like "Porcelain," or the almost sludge metal grooves on "Saboteur." With such a heavy emphasis on the instrumental grooves this time around, I can hear where some of those Tool comparisons came from; not to mention these grooves usually are in an uncommon time signature. Where the alterations happen are in the vocals of James Lascelles, who performs the vocals with way more range than Maynard.

Returning to those instrumentals though, the variety can be a bit of a mixed bag, but I feel like Wheel do have their hearts in the right place when it comes to effort. I really enjoyed the intro to the closing track "The Freeze" with its oddly timed groove, before the drums and vocals enter with The Ocean tempo. It really has the feeling of the best of both worlds. As the ten-and-a-half minute closer continues, I was greeted by a heavy Tool riff by the distorted guitar and how the whole thing would build up to the records epic conclusion. However, the excitement was cut short by some mixing issues, mostly in the low end feeling like an atom bomb instead of a foundational center (which also occurs on "Submission" as well). The guitar solo during the bridge was not impressive either.

While an improvement from the last album, Charismatic Leaders is not without fault. Songs like "Submission" and "Saboteur" smack in the middle of the record carry on for much too long and would have served better if they were separated. Because "Porcelain" and "The Freeze" feel closer to the progressive formula and not just filler. The hybrids of sounds and styles on Charismatic Leaders is easily one of Wheel's best showings, but transitions out of soft sections into louder metal romps don't sound great. If they could find a decent producer who knows how to mix acoustic/electric dichotomy well (Insomnium, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Adam Jones, etc.) Wheel could be in a league all of their own. As it stand right now, it needs some refinement, but the charisma is here.

Best Songs: Porcelain, Empire, Disciple

Saxy S Saxy S / May 16, 2024 06:00 PM

I was quite harsh towards Unleash the Archers when I discovered their 2017 record, Apex. It was a record that had potential by being directly influenced by classic Iron Maiden albums, while also providing some modern flare. Most notably in the vocals by Brittney Hayes, whose timbre was not typecast to arbitrary operatic vocals as is commonplace in many power/symphonic metal bands with female leads. But some truly awful production and how ideas ran out of steam remarkably quickly left Apex as a bit of a dud for me.

But look here, UtA (Unleash the Archers) are becoming slightly more progressive with this new concept album, Phantoma, which deals with the dangers and hypotheticals when artificial intelligence takes over the world, and the personality of art is deemed meaningless. Yeah, about that….

Phantoma is not a record that has learnt from its mistakes. The low end of the album is still lacking any presence, which leaves the rhythm guitars to do a lot more of the heavy lifting. And guess what? UtA seem to be aware of this. That’s why you’ll notice a lot less of the Iron Maiden-esque dueling guitar solos and instrumental breaks in general. Having less variety in the melodies leaves much of this album feeling very predictable. And that leaves most of the melodic heavy lifting to Brittney Hayes, who unfortunately has taken a step down when it comes to performances. They are not delivered with the same emotional weight as before and feel compromised by the mixing. Some of the harmonies during choruses are nice. What is not nice is the compressed harsh vocals that are hidden behind the wall of chugging breakdowns in the guitars.

The other big concern I had with Apex that has not been addressed here is the albums length, or rather, the individual song lengths. There is one (1) track on this album that is shorter than four (4) minutes (“Buried In Code”) and everything easily surpasses that. Almost every one of the remaining nine (9) songs burn out before their conclusions. It’s as if UtA had more information that they wanted to give to the audience, but not enough time during their presentation. Final choruses are extended beyond what is necessary and subtle changes such as final key changes on “Green & Glass,” or a post-black metal outro on “Blood Empress” are not quite as impactful because it has become tiring.

Longs songs/albums are not inherently a bad thing, but when they are poorly executed, it can leave a bitter taste in the listener’s mouth. For an album whose concept is about artificial intelligence and the dangerous slope that is A.I. generated art, Unleash the Archers made an album that is lacking in the humanity part of the story.

Best Songs: Ph4/NT0mA, Green & Glass, Seeking Vengeance

Saxy S Saxy S / May 16, 2024 05:02 PM

New Jersey metalcore outfit Rorschach have been on my radar to check out for quite some time now. I'd heard a few of their tracks while I was still programming the monthly The Revolution playlists & had always found their sound fairly attractive but I guess I'm not generally one to go chasing too much in the way of metalcore. The task of selecting every second The Revolution feature release has finally seen me investigating Rorschach though & I'm very glad I did because I've found them to be a class act that's deserving of the hype they inevitably seem to draw.

"Protestant" was clearly produced by a very competent group of musicians who knew what they were doing & had a clear sound in mind. Like a lot of the early metalcore releases, it sits heavily on the hardcore punk side of the metalcore equation but utilizes the best elements of that genre in conjunction with metal influences to great effect. The level of musicianship is exceptional for a bunch of rebellious punks to be honest with the arrangement & composition being very mature & showcasing a lot in the way of technique. I'm not the biggest fan of Charles Maggio's vocals as they tend to err on the generic, screamy side of the metalcore spectrum but they're certainly not a deal breaker by any means. It's the guitar work of Keith Huckins (Deadguy/Kiss It Goodbye) & Nick Forté (Raspberry Bulbs) that's the real attraction here though, particularly when they explore more atmospheric, arpeggiated or chaotic realms.

Another strength is that there are no weak tracks included amongst the thirteen included on "Protestant". It begins in very solid fashion & tends to maintain that level for most of the tracklisting. There's only really the one track that I'd suggest is capable of competing at the top tier of the metalcore hierarchy though in the classic "Blinders". The references to the mathcore subgenre are a little bit of a stretch though to tell you the truth. Yes, this material was fairly sophisticated for the time but I'm not sure I would ever tag it as chaotic, hectic or spasmodic. It's perhaps just a touch more progressive than you would usually expect from the hardcore scene which is intended as a compliment in this context.

"Protestant" is a very strong record overall & is definitely the sort of metalcore record I find myself attracted to. It doesn't rely on production or gimmicks to draw the listeners attention, instead focusing on strong song-writing & punk rock energy to perform the task & it works a treat. In fact, I've gone so far as to include "Protestant" in my newly revised Top Ten Metalcore Releases of All Time list which is really saying something given that it's not generally a genre of choice for me. I can tell a good record when I hear one though & "Protestant" fits the bill nicely.

Daniel Daniel / May 15, 2024 12:12 PM
Cyan Night Dreams

I used to listen to Parasite Inc. when I was still into the more melodic bands before switching to the heavier modern ones. After I made that grand move months before the release of their sophomore album Dead and Alive, I forgot all about that band. Fast forward to just a week before this review, when I found out that they switched to a cyber-ish industrial metal direction in their 3rd album. I was shocked. Shocked! ...Well, not that shocked. But I wasn't gonna put it down right away, I'm too open-minded for that.

This German band consisting of frontman Kai Bigler, guitarist Dominik Sorg, bassist Lucien Mosesku, and drummer Benjamin Stelzer, had already unleashed two melodeath offerings since forming in 2007. How well have they done in 3rd album Cyan Night Dreams despite this sudden idea of adding dreamy synthwave to their sound? Well...

The haunting intro "Lithium" already hints at those ethereal synths. Then the destructive melodeath strikes in "I Am" with solid melodies, rhythms, and vocals front and center. The violence burns through a chorus of epic melancholy and speed. The riff-wrath continues in the heavy "First Born". Hypnotic leads sound interesting when mixed together with the vicious screams. The catchy title track is where the synthwave night begins to shine. The clean singing is very effective. A fantastic example of their new direction!

"In False Light" is all about the band's earlier aggression. The wild riff rhythms are in smooth contrast with the softer sections. "Osmium" is another haunting interlude. The raging march of "Follow the Blind" has more in common with metalcore, which is actually perfect for the headbanging crowd.

"Under Broken Skies" is more modern and accessible while staying heavy. Then "Into Destruction" is a solid melodeath track with more of the devastating blasts. The anthemic choruses allow the clean vocals to make themselves at home. "When All is Said" is the album's closing track and the most synthwave-ish track here. But the modern heaviness is still around as expected and ends it all perfectly.

Who knew synthwave and melodeath can go well together in a catchy blend? I certainly didn't before encountering this album. Don't let the electronics in Cyan Night Dreams turn you off. Let them mesmerize you in your dreams....

Favorites: "I Am", "Cyan Night Dreams", "Follow the Blind", "Into Destruction", "When All is Said"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 15, 2024 07:07 AM

I had a lot of fun listening to Mechina's Acheron, although I probably would've enjoyed it more when I still into highly epic melodic styles of metal, and the second half could've been improved. Today we go further into the epic sci-fi cyber metal world of Mechina by taking on the band's second album, Conqueror. It is the album that expanded upon the one-off story of their 2005 debut The Assembly of Tyrants and turned it into the saga the band is known for...

I find some good material to please my ears, as Conqueror shows the welcoming signs of their evolving sound to come. I should check out the in-between albums Empyrean and Xenon some time. Though what's different from Acheron is the simpler shorter songs instead of the long complex epics. So that's one reason to knock off a half-star.

Intro "Incipient Tragoedia" has some female vocal melody floating over cinematic orchestra. Then the guitars crash in right away in "Pray to the Winds" with its heavy djenty riffing. The guitar and orchestra are never buried against each other, they are in the right balance. A true symphonic blessing! Keep that in mind before this Meshuggah-powered Sybreed-like sound goes a bit downhill. Exhibit A being "Anti-Theist" with its unbalanced atmosphere and vocalist David Holch's poor attempt at clean singing.

"Non Serviam" also has that issue, but the blend of epicness and heaviness overlooks it and makes the song a better standout. Another instrumental composition "[Error 36:48.58/Connection Lost]" has nice orchestra, yet it's easily skippable. Though not as awful as "Internecion" which is the worst, most flat-sounding sh*tter here.

However, it then goes straight to the best song here, "The Iron Law", the perfect soundtrack to a sci-fi boss battle. The lyrics are definitely worth shouting along to, "TOTAL. SYSTEM. FAILURE!!!!" The title track also stands out well, though it can't beat the previous track. Outro "Ad Astra" can almost fit well in the soundtrack to the film Ad Astra, and the melody from the album's intro is reprised.

All in all, Conqueror truly begins a saga and sound further explored in Empyrean, Xenon, Acheron, etc. It's worth some good listening though some tracks could've been improved, and there should've been a long epic (which there actually is in the Compendium edition). Still the band knows what's right when taking their music to the stars....

Favorites: "Pray to the Winds", "Non Serviam", "The Iron Law", "Conqueror"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 15, 2024 12:56 AM
Heavy Metal Wraiths

I was quite interested by Morgul Blade's debut album, 2021's Fell Sorcery Abounds, with it's combination of traditional heavy metal with black metal vocals, but ultimately it sounded better in theory than in practice. It wasn't bad, but it didn't grab me as much as I had hoped it would. Anyway, here we are, two and a half years and a couple of personnel changes later with the Philadelphians' sophomore, Heavy Metal Wraiths. Guitarist Jason Hiller has been replaced by Heavy Temple's Elyse Mitchell (aka Elyse NightHawk) and bassist Dan JD has been superceded by Wild Beyond's Jim Viola. The personnel changes seem to have made a big difference, with the band sounding much tighter than on the debut which I felt got a little bit sloppy at times. The production is excellent with all the elements of the band being perfectly audible and the overall sound being thick and crunchy, from steel-coated riffs to crisp drum fills and thundering bass lines. I must make a particular mention of drummer Will Spectre at this point, who sounds amazing throughout with his energetic and entertaining fills supplementing his sterling work as timekeeper.

Musically they have their feet well and truly planted in the 80s with an arterial line of ascension leading straight back to the stalwarts of early USPM and european trad metal, deploying galloping riffs, melodious leadwork and a tireless rhythm section. Then, of course, there are Klauf's black metallized vocals that instill the tracks with a snarlingly vicious edge and which solves one of the major hurdles I have to overcome with any number of traditional and USPM-derived bands and that is the overt histrionics of some of the frontmen. Musically I like a lot of power metal, but I find the majority of the singers intolerable, so Morgul Blade are tailor-made for me. I guess there are those that will counter this by arguing that the vocals are restrictive compared to those employed by the more theatrical exponents of the art and I can understand that argument, but for me personally, lacking in range though they are, Klauf's blackened snarls just resonate with me so much more than some elaborate glorified air siren that dominates proceedings with attention-seeking wailings. Interestingly, they throw in a couple of curveballs with the short interludes "Widow's Lament" and "A Welcoming Hearth". The former is a clean-sung celtic folk song that I found worked really well in context here and it, along with the opening bars of "Spider God", very much reminded me of Solstice's New Dark Age album where "Blackthorne/The Keep" segues into "Cromlech", a transition I absolutely love. The other interlude, "A Welcoming Hearth", takes the form of a short electric piano and synth-driven electronic piece, which is less out of place than it sounds, following the synth-heavy ending of preceeding track "Razor Sharp".

Funnily enough I found the opening couple of tracks to be the least engaging and it wasn't until the title track, the album's third, that things really kicked into high gear. It, along with "Razor Sharp" and "Neither Cross Nor Crown" all really hit the spot with me and illustrated best how far the band had come since the debut. Ultimately, Heavy Metal Wraiths is an album of good, old-fashioned metal with hook-laden riffs that will be playing around in your head long after the album has ended and has a vitality that stems from songwriters that understand what makes heavy metal great for those who love it.

As an afterthought - and I don't know if it has any relevance - but the artwork shows four hooded, Nazgul-type beings whereas the debut only had a lone hooded figure and I wonder if this is a reflection of a new dynamic within the band, whereby Klauf viewed the earlier material as his own and sees this later release as more of a band effort. It certainly feels that way and is better for it.

Sonny Sonny / May 14, 2024 04:04 PM
Dead Trees

From First to Last is a band with a few members that have been part of more well-known projects. Rhythm guitarist/unclean vocalist Travis Richter left the band to join The Human Abstract but came back when that band went on hiatus and From First to Last ended theirs. For this album Dead Trees, the band brought in Spencer Sotelo as lead vocalist, a position held on to for the band's first two albums by Sonny Moore, A.K.A. dubstep superstar Skrillex.

Dead Trees brings back the earlier post-hardcore sound, this time heavier and getting close to djent. That and the more melodic aspects gives the album a melodic metalcore direction. Spencer's well-done vocals are a perfect fit here, and I enjoy them as greatly as his work with Periphery...

"Heresy" is a mysterious one-minute intro with its epic orchestral synths sounding almost like they're leftover from a Powerwolf album. Then you get hit by two minutes of killer metallic hardcore "Straight to the Face". The theatrical heaviness continues in "H8 Meh". Then we have one of two singles in the title track, and it's a perfect metallic throwback to the mid-2000s post-hardcore scene embraced by From First to Last and other similar bands.

"I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good" really takes on the theatrical antics of Ice Nine Kills while Spencer expands his vocal range as much as he had in Periphery's Juggernaut series from that year. "Black and White" is worth listening to as the band fire away with their blend of heaviness and melody. "Back to Hannalei" is a softer ballad, not too far off from the softer tracks of Bring Me the Horizon at that time. "Never in Reverie" exemplifies the more metallic side that reminds me of Bullet for My Valentine and Oh Sleeper, and that I'm definitely up for.

That heavier side continues once again in "2 11". Then "Electrified" has the catchy dance-y pace of Electric Callboy but none of that band's trance-y synths. "I Don’t Wanna Live in the Real World" is another acoustic ballad to wrap up this offering. For the earlier fans, the bonus re-recordings are a successful treat altogether, "Note to Self", "Ride the Wings of Pestilence", and "The Latest Plague". OK, the third one is not as awesome the previous two, but they all still work well.

Dead Trees is the comeback album From First to Last fans need! Well, a couple tracks I don't totally need, but the rest is still great. And as amazing as Spencer sounds there, let's hope the band can make another album in the future with more of Sonny Moore's vocals....

Favorites: "Straight to the Face", "Dead Trees", "I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good", "Black and White", "Never in Reverie", "Note to Self", "Ride the Wings of Pestilence"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 14, 2024 07:37 AM
Maze Envy

When Ben nominated the brand new sophomore album from Los Angeles death metallers Civerous as our May feature release a couple of weeks ago I found myself full of hopes & dreams of a potentially very positive experience. I’ve given Civerous’ 2021 debut album “Decrepit Flesh Relic” a few listens in recent years & found it to be a very enjoyable experience while the early reports on their newie “Maze Envy” had tended to indicate that it was another step up from the debut so all was boding very well for the potential success of this week's undertaking. None of the reviews I'd read would end up giving me a hint at the magnitude of the impact that “Maze Envy” would make on me though as it’s an astoundingly good extreme metal record & potentially one that will stay with me for many decades.

“Maze Envy” is a seven-track, 42-minute affair that comes in a striking purple cover. It took me a while to come around to the artwork at first but now I find myself loving it. The indecipherable band logo isn’t real flash but thankfully the contents of the album are quite remarkable. You’ll rarely find a better produced death metal record in my opinion with every instrument being full, clear, powerful & in your face while the energy levels are kept high & the crescendos receive earth-shattering power. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the production job is one of the major selling points for the album & I’d be perfectly happy if every metal release I ever heard in my life sounded like this one to be honest.

Civerous’ sound is generally touted as sitting somewhere between the doom/death & death metal genres but I have to admit that I’m not buying the doom/death tag here. Sure, “Maze Envy” has its doomy moments but there’s not enough of that material to justify a dual tag with the general atmosphere sitting clearly in the death metal camp. There are a number of other influences at play here though too with black metal, post-metal & even deathcore & djent receiving the occasional airing. It all works wonderfully well though with the vast majority of the material seemingly reaching the fullest realization of its potential. Front man Lord Foul is an absolute animal & his ultra-gutteral vocals are right up there with the best in the death metal game. They’re offset by the regular use of blackened screams that are almost as effective. I’m also a huge fan of the powerful yet innovative drumming of Aidan Neuner, as well as the subtle keyboards that are incorporated at just the right moments to ensure maximum atmosphere.

Sadly “Maze Envy” begins with its only weak point in the artsy modern classical intro piece “The Azure Eye” which does very little for me but the remainder of the album is right on the money, particularly the second half of the tracklisting which maintains its position in the more elite levels of the death metal hierarchy throughout. The one-two punch of new classics “Levitation Tomb” & the title track is utterly devastating while the two songs that bookend the album (“Shrouded in Crystals” & “Geryon (The Plummet”) aren’t far behind. This is crushingly heavy peak-time death metal of the highest order, so much so that I can easily see “Maze Envy” being my album of the year in another 7-8 months. The contrast of the Spectral Voice/diSEMBOWELMENT style doom/death sections & the more up-front Grave Miasma/Phrenelith/Incantation style death metal is so fucking appealing to this old extreme metalhead that I can hardly contain my joy right now. "Maze Envy" is just what I look for in my metal in 2024.

Daniel Daniel / May 14, 2024 07:09 AM
Mystic Places of Dawn

With my recent revisit of Septicflesh's comeback album Communion, I eventually thought "What about their earlier era?" These were the days when Septic Flesh (with a space between the two words) were more focused on death and a bit of the doom of the Peaceville 3, with symphonic synths used more sparsely and only fully displayed in tracks where it's used as the sole instrument. The debut Mystic Places of Dawn shows Spiros Antoniou and co. nicely blending brutality with atmosphere and historical lyrics...

The debut is more melancholic and longer (at a full one-hour length) than most other death metal albums back then, and it flows well when experienced entirely. Simple yet devastating guitars soar alongside crystalline synths in haunting melody.

The thunderous title opener has that deathly speed, though you'll find slower variation in the doomy sections. Blazing soloing plagues "Pale Beauty of the Past" in effective echo. It really does sound beautiful, even though the heavier fans of death metal prefer brutality over beauty. Next track "Return to Carthage" is a return to the heavier side of death metal with barely any of the crawling doom.

"Crescent Moon" is an amazing 8-minute doomy epic with guitarwork ranging from blissful to intense. And there's more of the slow doom in "Chasing the Chimera". The most of the pretty synths you'll get in one of the death metal tracks is "The Underwater Garden".

The fast "Behind the Iron Mask" is an explosive riff monster. It's great that they have the heaviest track deep into the album. It's a well-placed brutal break from the slowness. The most variant track here is "(Morpheus) The Dreamlord" with its slow melodic sections that then lead to a climatic buildup into eruptive blasts. The sonic firepower of the soloing would certainly burn away those slow melodies. Also that track was recorded a year before everything else in the album and had an actual drummer instead of a drum machine to add a more authentic kick to the sound. "Mythos" is the 9-minute two-part finale of nothing but symphonic synths. This was around the time when both Septic Flesh and Amorphis stunned the death metal realm with their synth usage. It's not for pure heavy metalheads, but it's certainly fitting for an epic journey to Atlantis.

So I actually enjoy Mystic Places of Dawn slightly more than I did a few years ago, and slightly more than Communion. As amazing as their debut is though, the mixing is a bit unclear, which is understandable when the band was first starting out. Still it has the right kind of mood to stand out in the rise of the Greek extreme metal scene led by black metal bands Necromantia and Rotting Christ. The album has some impressive writing and it promised an essential future for Septic Flesh and the more atmospheric side of death metal. Best recommended for death metal lovers who don't mind some doom and synthesized orchestration....

Favorites: "Mystic Places of Dawn", "Pale Beauty of the Past", "Crescent Moon", "Behind the Iron Mask", "(Morpheus) The Dreamlord"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 14, 2024 12:56 AM

The Ruins of Beverast marathon #8 - Exuvia

This is the one moment I've been waiting for, the beloved 2017 Exuvia.  I'll have heard the last of RoB's rawest classics after this.  It really bit me in the ass yesterday when my internet was conking out and I couldn't listen to either Exuvia or the previous EP.  I really wanna know where this man decided to go after everything that's been going down and all the surreal craziness and evil that built his last three studio albums.

The title track out with a new direction for the tribal behavior of the previous EP, Takitum Tootem, applying the chanting spiritual vocals to a funeral doom sound that evolves into black.  The next couple minutesa are taking small but effective shifts into different black metal sounds to keep things original, drawing the listener into a dark netherworld after the chanting ends.  It seems to me that the black metal here is being used for more like a repeating ambient track rather than a melodic track.  Despite the fact that melody has worked out perfectly for RoB in the past, this decision is a perfectly fine one since it WORKS.  The repetitive hypnotism keeps dragging the listener from one surreal plain of reality to another.  By the end of this track, there's a very faint guitar melody drowned out by the repeating riff.  I'd have liked for it to be a little louder as the ending draws itself out a bit.

Surtur Barbaar Martime begins with one of RoB's signature funeral riffs, taking a direct turn into the black metal pretty quickly, relying on more energy than the opener.  The song typically switches between the two for aural effect, oftentimes being instantaneous but eventually being combined with meximum effect during the middle section.  This song is esentially a reorganization of the behavior of the first track with less of the tribal ambient and more of the funeral backdrops.  But since it shares so many similarities with the first track, I was really hoping for something different with Maere.  Starts out more or less the same way with a blacker energy to it.  Any ambient aspects are attributed to ghostly wails, usued for a mysterious Lovecraftian effect.  They're quite cool, but a little drowned out by the black guitars.  At least, this is true for the first half, which cranks up the volume on the vocals.  It seems that despite the shifts in these songs, the exact tone is much moe consistent.  The line between black and doom is much thinner here.

The Pythia's Pale Wolves starts up the second half with bagpipes faintly added to another typical black doom intro, but the percussion is tamer, less active and more focused on a specific slow rhythm.  The vocals are also more fit for doom as they're clear and harmonic.  This helps bring out another spiritual vibe that's much more relaxing.  I didn't expect this to last forever, though, as it eventually combines the funereal guitar tone with this, somehow making both the ambiance of the blackened guitars and the funereal sound much more energetic together rather than separate.  Even when the crystal clear female vocalizing comes into play, it revs the listener up.  The tempo and percussion eventually replicate the energy, pushing it even further as the power becomes too much to handle, leaving the harmonizing to balance it out.  This is a shift I can really appreciate as it keeps making something better out of a sound that, while still great, we've heard before.  This is the densest segment of the album so far.  This track really likes to challenge the perceptions of relaxation and extremities, as it's really the heaviest track on the album at that point but also has some very serene atmospheric moments created through these extremities.  But at this point, I also really need something different no matter how extreme it gets.

Towards Malaika only has about thirty seconds of weird tribal chanting, and I was pretty disappointment that it didn't continue for even longer.  So the most I could do was wait for something totally new to happen.  Although the beginning had a typical sound, the vibes are much more dramatic than the tracks before, thanks to a higher pitched sound-effect driving the background and amplifying the weird rhythm in the front.  After the dramatic intro, there's a switch into pure, uncensored doom, and this doom keeps us going for a while.  This to me qualifies as a difference because it's slow, stomping guitars are more true to doom's roots than anything that's been present so far, relying more on atmospheres such as tribalism or mysticism before.  The third act, starts with the chanting, and I was once again hoping that it would last a while, but instead it goes right back to the black metal, which kind of pissed me off.  This guy makes a tribal ambient EP, releases another album the next year and barely does anything with it.  It begged the question, why bother featuring it on this track at all???  The song ends with it again, but it doesn't have as strong of an effect as it should for me.  I was thinking to myself, this last track had better be phenomenal.

This final track, Takitum Tootem (Trance), goes right into the noisiest black metal guitars present so far.  This doesn't stop a melody from being made out, largely because the percussion is more rooted in dramatic effect and not speed. In this way, I'm given an effective black ambient track performed with metal instruments, like some black noise albums I can name.  This slower, doomier and noiser take on the Exuvia sound has increased the heaviness while still finding that perfect serenity through it.

This is a different type of album for Ruins of Beverast.  The songs each have their differences and their similarities, and because the songs are so long, the similarities kind of tested my faith in his ability to put out other songs.  Maybe this is the best course of action, as black metal and doom metal fans want many more atmospheres.  This is the perfect RoB album for those who favor atmospheres akin to his debut over the wild ever-shifting behavior of his second through fourth albums.  This album is ALL ABOUT the atmospheres.  Unfortunately, this fixation on metal atmos also wanes down the potential of the tribal aspects shown on the Takitum Tootem EP from the year before, even though it still makes short and effective.  So this is another fantastic release by one of Germany's best black metal artists, but also features a slightly missed opportunity that's not quite enough to knock a half-star down, but is enough for me to confirm that IMO this doesn't hold a candle to Sheltered Elite.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 13, 2024 09:32 PM
Takitum Tootem!

The Ruins of Beverast marathon #7 - Takitum Tootem!

OK, so I'm reading about this album on RYM, and it tags the EP as "tribal ambient" and "black metal."  So here I am thinking, "OK, this is gonna be one of the coolest fucking things ever, or a mess."  The ratings don't look so good on RYM, but that didn't stop me from checking out their demo.  I had a few theories as to what this album would sound like, but I didn't care which one was right.  I just wanted to jump right into it after I had gotten that chronologically far in RoB's discography.

Track one of two: Takitum Tootem! (Wardance).  It starts out with a dark ambient intro with mild tribalism that evolves into a long black metal riff.  The riff itself has a very metal energy about it that isn't so much "evil" as it is "cool" and "dark."  Tribal drumming rides the whole rest of the track.  Unfortunately, it stays that way for 75% of the song with very few meaningful shifts.  I'm surprised at RoB for doing that.

Track two: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun: This one gets right into the weird tribal atmospheres and instrumentation.  It's practically invoking images of fighting zombies in an ancient temple.  The atmosphere and instrumentation are PERFECT.  Around three minutes in, we start to see occasional ghostly vocals like something out of a Metroid game.  Black metal guitars are also used sparingly at first for build-up.  It speeds up at the four minute mark, turning into pure tribal black metal as guitars overlap each other level upon level like the ending act of Nine Inch Nails' Closer.  It stays that way for a moment before drowning down to a dungeon ambient tune that carries over the Metroid mysticism, going through various Lovecraftian sound effects before returning to the main riff of the beginning, but with more "technological" aspects.  Genius moves on their part.  Now it sounds EXACTLY like something out of a Metroid game.  It ends with two more segments: one final blast of black tribalism, and a weirdass outro with what sounds like some awkward animal noises for a surreal effect.

I certainly wasn't disappointed with this one.  This otherworldly EP carries the surreal vibes of Metroid, Cthulhu and even some Juno Reactor songs.  The first track was decent on its own, but the second track is one of the coolest ambient tracks I've heard.  This is easily a keeper.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 13, 2024 08:08 PM
Jar of Kingdom

I haven't heard of this band from Canberra, Australia before, but let me fill you in right away on what to expect from Alchemist's debut Jar of Kingdom. This is avant-garde/progressive death metal soaring through the psychedelic cosmos! This is the kind of style that's either awesome or too weird to enjoy. In this case, it's the former. Alchemist made an experiment in metal alchemy that has really paid off!

With this incredible debut, I have a great feeling about the rest of their discography. There are so many things that are both expected and unexpected all in one dish. Avant-garde/prog-metal has lots of twists through death and doom here. For newcomers to The Infinite genres, it may sound weird and take some time to digest.

Listeners of the album get the first taste of the experience from opening track "Abstraction", starting with a smooth yet eerie horror movie-ish intro before blasting off into atonal guitars and death growls, to remind some of Demilich without going all-out brutal. Frontman Adam Agius actually damaged his voice while recording that song, hence the rawness of his vocals here. "Shell" is a bizarre when kicking off with twisted ethereal doom, but then we have some fast bass melody and heaviness to stand out. "Purple" is more dynamic in the blast-beats and riffing, blending the psychedelia of Voivod at the time with the deathly hellfire. The cacophonic title track once again has 70s space rock twisted into intricate thrashy death metal rhythms.

"Wandering and Wondering" wanders through dissonant riffing reminiscent of Carbonized and melodic turns into doom/power metal. Then we have an acoustic interlude "Found" sung by Michelle Klemke. "Enhancing Enigma" enhances the sound with oriental psychedelia as the death metal realms continue to range from thrashy to doomy.

"Whale" is a strange interlude with the wailing of a humpback whale in the background, long before Gojira tried something like that in From Mars to Sirius. And there's more experimentation in "Brumal: a View from Pluto" in which deathly blasts have a bit of industrial melody crawling in. It all leads to "Worlds Within Worlds" having some of that Eastern balladry followed by the last bit of thrashy death metal in a progressive epic.

Jar of Kingdom is the massive beginning of a 6-album journey that sadly had to end. Adam Agius would then form a new band, The Levitation Hex, with members of Alarum. Nonetheless, the complex experimentation of Alchemist is a deathly adventure through the dark psychedelic depths of space!

Favorites: "Abstraction", "Purple", "Jar of Kingdom", "Enhancing Enigma", "Worlds Within Worlds"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 13, 2024 09:58 AM

By 2002, nu metal had peaked. With world domination accomplished, the only way forward was down, and with that, so many bands that were “on top of the world” found themselves quickly discarded and back down from massive festivals to small clubs. And while a handful of groups, most notably Linkin Park, were able to outlive the subgenre, one of the bigger casualties was Californian quartet, Papa Roach.

The Roach’s 2000 major label debut, ‘Infest’, saw the band at the forefront of the scene, with a number of major hit singles, in particular, ‘Last Resort’, transcend the metal genre and branch out to casual radio listeners. In 2000, Papa Roach were arguably one of the biggest bands on the planet. But by the time they released 2002’s follow-up, ‘Lovehatetragedy’, nu metal was in decline, and unfortunately so was the group’s popularity.

Which is a shame, because ‘Lovehatetragedy’ isn’t a bad album, but it’s a clear reflection of where the subgenre was headed. There’s just something about the record that doesn’t quite have the same punch as before. It’s like ‘Infest’ made a huge statement, and now they’re just coasting the waves. Perhaps all the lyrical themes were already passé, or the lack of rapping and more focus on radio-friendly rock took away some of the edge of what originally made the band stand out?

Still, for what it’s worth, this release has its merits. There’s some catchy, hook-laden tracks, and vocalist Jacoby Shaddix has improved as a singer, especially with more melodic-based vocal lines. There's some nice guitar work too, though metal fans quickly tired of nu metals repetitive, de-tuned riffs, I personally think there’s some nice, tight playing here. Songs like ‘Black Clouds’, ‘She Loves Me Not’, ‘Time and Time Again’, ‘Life is a Bullet’, ‘Born With Nothing, Die With Everything’ and ‘M-80 (Explosive Energy Movement)’ are all decent tracks that show that the subgenre still had lots of potential left, even in its dying days.

And while Papa Roach will never reach the same heights they did in 2000, this album shows that they’re actually not as bad as most people will make them out to be.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 13, 2024 08:59 AM
Lost Not Forgotten Archives: Images and Words - Live in Japan, 2017

Celebrating 25 years of arguably their best and most important album, as well as THE album that set the blueprint for all of progressive metal to follow, Dream Theater played the entire ‘Images and Words’ album throughout 2017, and as recorded and released here, this was the performance in Japan, a country which has been very kind to the band over their careers.

With that said, I don’t really know what to make of this. ‘Images and Words’ is without doubt, my favourite album of all time. It changed my life when I first stumbled across it back in 2003 at the age of sixteen, and to this day I still consider every track an absolute masterpiece. And yet, this particular release doesn’t really do anything for me.

I mean, there are some obvious detriments, for one thing, James LaBrie absolutely struggles to sing a lot of this now. Age, and a well-documented vocal incident in the 90’s, hasn’t helped. Of course, being a live recording means that the sound isn’t as polished and clear as the studio album either. Then there’s just the general question… why? Why bother releasing this at all?

The answer is simple. Because there are prog nerds such as myself that would snap this up in an instant, if for no other reason than because it’s another Dream Theater CD! But it’s not all bad, for what it’s worth, ‘Images and Words’ IS indeed an absolute classic, and the band have added a few small touches here and there. It makes the album listenable, but only just.

So with that said, buy it, don’t buy it. Whatever. This is one for the die-hard fans. By all means, if you don’t have ‘Images and Words’ then why are you even reading this? Get the bloody thing! It’s only one of the greatest albums ever! But ‘Images and Words – Live in Japan’… it’s basically what it says it is, and not worth owning unless you’re a nerdy collector like me, who must own everything, then proceeds to never listen to it.

MartinDavey87 MartinDavey87 / May 13, 2024 08:57 AM
Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospels of Heinrich Kramer

The Ruins of Beverast marathon #5 - Blood Vaults

I knew this was going to be a turning point for The Ruins of Beverast.  From what I understand, much of the black metal sound has been degraded to an amplifier for other doomier projects, but I really wanted to see where this was going to go.  Considering RoB's love of the random, I would either love this or hate this.  I currently consider The Ruins of Beverast one of the greatest black metal acts of all time, but I'm not as familiar with his doom music.  Let's see where this goes...

So the spoken word intro wasn't anything special to me.  I mean, I fell like anyone can put together basic synths and a creepy poem together and open an album that way.  The fact that his segues on his debut album were so brilliant only make this worse.  Thankfully, the first song, Daemon, is there to fill in the emptiness.  It starts out as a black doom song but evolves into some oddly appropriate but totally new traditional doom metal for a minute before returning to blackened doom.  Daemon is yet another creepy, paced and cinematic whirlwind of organized chaos, and is a perfect opener to this album.

Maleficia starts out dominated by weird repeating vocal effects set to a slow and sparse gothic doom instrumentation, and even lets some effects take over the lead, almost like he's underwater.  The song gets a little heavier and black to blackness before taking a direct shift into high-pitched synths and post-metal slowness.  This flow is both calming and empowering at the same time, creating something completely new for RoB: a post-metal song, one that I honestly like more than most post-metal albums I've heard.  However, the genre-shifting is much more blatant, which can actually fuck with the flow for some.  I mean, this song REALLY challenges your dedication to Ruins of Beverast.  So the fatal flaw is that the serenity of it all is given very little room to breathe.  We have black doom, death doom and even organs near the end overtaking this, so it's a good song but a wasted opportunity for an incredible post-metal song.

We go back to roots here with Ornaments on Malice, which frankly has been done before: a black-death-doom hybrid song again, and it takes three minutes for it to really change pace.  But this time, it's a simple, monotone ring with more angelic synths and deep chanting.  Eventually the two distinct sounds mold together for something truly epic, if not under-explored.  This combination, however, is also bringing to mind the metal artist Hell, also known as MSW.  After that is Spires, which spends a good deal of time in the same old death doom territory that we already expect of him with very little to say for the melody, which means this fairly rhythmic track is mostly relying on a familiar atmosphere.  There are some weird and quirky moments, but nowhere near enough to drive the song for its 13-minute runtime.

So now I'm hoping A Failed Exorcism gives me something new, even if it ends up being a mess  I mean, 15 minutes wouldn't have been a daunting task back in Sheltered Elite.  The combination of gothic doom and death doom maximizes the effect of both aspects put together, even to the point where it sounds like THE SONG ITSELF IS ACTUALLY GONNA KILL ME.  There's even a touch of prog in the percussions during the breaks.  Three and a half minutes in, it takes a totally different persona as the funereal sounds drive a ritualistic drum pattern through another chanted poetic lyrics with some beautiful singing before returning to the original format again, only with the black doom aspects enhanced.  The next few minutes go back to balancing the two brands of doom with just as strong of an effect as before, allowing it to feel fresh after its many shifts, and ends with a purely death doom outro that ties all the shifts together in a simple, easy to follow way.  Excellent effort.

Next is the three-minute trial, which is all about monotone instrumentation backing up a whole choir.  It gets creepier as it goes along, adding new sounds in the background and slowly changing the drum riff to something more active and heavier overtime.  Following is another three-minute track, Ordeal, which is a pretty cool black metal track on its own but doesn't hold a candle to the best stuff on the album.  Finally we end things with Monumentum, which kicks us off as a with a symphonic funeral piece It switches to a purely doom sound pretty often, which means there are very few surprises left in store by this point.

Well this was a much more mixed bag of ups and downs than I expected.  The quality of songs took big rises and drops constantly, and some are just totally forgettable while others are flat-out amazing.  It says to me that the current incarnation of The Ruins of Beverast is done and shouldn't be pressed any further, so while there are some songs I'd definitely put on a greatest hits comp, I don't really feel like I have any reason to listen to this again.  So I think I'll give it the bare maximum for 3.5 stars: 74/100, as 75 would round to 4 stars.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 13, 2024 01:28 AM

Presenting, in Living Colour, these funk metal forerunners from New York City! Living Colour has been shaping up the funk metal scene since their 1988 debut album Vivid that includes their Grammy-winning hit, political anthem "Cult of Personality". In the years that followed, even more exposure was inevitable thanks to their more popular tour-mates Guns N' Roses and The Rolling Stones, as well as participating in the Lollapalooza tour on its very first year, 1991.

So what's next? Well, bassist Muzz Skillings left the group before they could start recording their 3rd album Stain. His replacement Doug Wimbish has been known for working with popular musicians like Madonna and Mick Jagger. Bad Brains producer Ron Germain helped show the band's dark heavy side while suitable for the mainstream.

The antiliberal opening track "Go Away" is a crushing start to the album. "Ignorance is Bliss" continues the political pessimism. "Leave It Alone" is a more melodic highlight. Another cool mainstream song is "Bi". Despite not getting enough attention or longevity in their career, great songs like this should never be ignored. It's an interesting song detailing the ongoing dilemma of people's sexuality ("Everybody's messed up with their sexuality") and can motivate certain people to overcome that dilemma and be proud of themselves and their community, maybe even certain characters from children's shows that have expanded the LGBT boundaries. But it might also cause some massive debate about whether this is pro- or anti-LGBT. Quite a tough call. Let's move on...

"Mind Your Own Business" takes some influence from their aforementioned tour-mates, and is not really my business. Then "Auslander" explodes into one of my favorite songs here. "Never Satisfied" is satisfying but can't beat the greater highlights. Another one of them being "Nothingness", which is a ballad-ish funk rock track with ambient symphonic synths, but I can certainly understand how destined it was to be a hit. After that, "Postman" packs a killer punch as the lyrics describe a vicious murderer. Living Colour can certainly take a death metal lyrical concept and twist it up in their usual funk/alt-metal/rock.

The problems this album has that make me think "WT*!?" are exemplified in the weird experimental "WTFF" (the second F stands for "Factor"). Really messing things up is "This Little Pig". Then "Hemp" is a f***ing pointless interlude. Fortunately, "Wall" closes the album by showing you all how this funky sound should really be done. As much as I enjoy Revolution bands from the electronicore of Enter Shikari to the mathcore of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, I'm up for a bit of funky alt-metal once in a while.

Stain is a decent funky album with a few standouts, a few mess-ups, and a few in-betweens. Despite its success, the album ceased printing for 20 years due to a lawsuit from the band The Stain, and Living Colour split up due to creative differences. It won't be until a decade after Stain's release when their next offering would occur....

Favorites: "Leave It Alone", "Bi", "Auslander", "Nothingness", "Postman", "Wall"

Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / May 13, 2024 12:47 AM
Enchanted By Gravemould

The Ruins of Beverast marathon #4 - Enchanted By Gravemould

Wasn't really expecting a demos album, but I had to know what the rejects from the first three albums sounded like.  Ruins of Beverast is a project that's shown me a whole new world of black metal, one that I hope is much more thoroughly explored by the masses.  I REALLY do think it's possible.  Did you know that you can get 1000 new black metal studio albums every year?  I checked the RYM charts and multiple year charts for this.  It's fucking true.  On top of that, Darkthrone's updating the doom influence in their modern albums, so I really hope this becomes a thing: blackened doom metal, and not just a small time blanket term for a select few bands like "Philly Club Rap."  So I'm going to keep exploring Beverast and the world he created, and that includes demos and rejects like this.

Desert Lair does show some kind of a difference.  Maybe the occasional slightly higher timbres don't allow it to feel as dark as what was called for on the albums at first?  Maybe the production was wrong because it's a bit more clear?  I have no idea, but otherwise, I don't find anything wrong with in.  The variations in rhythm, tempo and instrumentation are abundant, but they all flow together perfectly.  If anything, this is one of his finest performances.  In fact, I checked some reviews to see what people thought, and apparently I'm not off the mark here: this is basically a highlight of RoB's career.  It kinda pains me that he left this off his official albums.

The Moselle Enigma goes right into the noisier black metal production, and is a bit off.  The noise-factor of the instrumentation is properly messy, but it gets in the way of hearing the vocals properly.  Real shame because the rhythms are fantastic.  Despite how maniacal this song is, it's surprisingly catchy and intriguing.  The second half starts off with rain recordings and more choral vocals, giving us a very bleak imagery that's just PERFECT for the vibe of the song.  Part of me wanted this segment to last the remainder of the song, but when it ended I still had a minute left, and it was used on the format of the first half, which I think is perfectly fine this time considering its short length in comparison to the average length of an RoB song.

Hours of the Aequinox is next, and we go into it with a black noise focus and a slower, doomier violin intro just totally chilling me out.  A serene song was the perfect way to follow up the last one, and the black noise is the perfect way to follow up the rainy effects.  We don't have very many slow-going atmo-black songs that mirror the winter aesthetic, as up to this point, the tones and timbres were a bit deeper.

Those were the originals.  Apparently, the last three songs are all covers, starting with Enigma of the Absolute, originally present on Dead Can Dance's Spleen and Ideal.  Now Spleen and Ideal is one of the best darkwave albums in the world, so covering it is a daunting task.  You'd think a master of black metal would pull it off, and it might've been done had the production been better.  The rhythms of the guitars can barely be made out, the percussion's week, and the effects are almost entirely drowned out.  It's a real shame.  This could've stood with the original.

Next, believe it or not, is a cover of To Have and to Hold off of Music for the Masses, as in DEPECHE MODE.  I guess it can be done, as Depeche Mode have dabbled with darkwave instrumentation before.  It's a pretty creepy track with its own personality, and I guess it's a slight improvement because the atmosphere and production are improved.  But this song doesn't even reach the creative heights of Unlock the Shrine's segues.

The final cover is Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium by My Dying Bride.  Now I've never heard the original EP with this song, but I'm more than aware of what MDB sounds like.  I've got several of their albums under my belt.  This version uses neoclassical synths to help with the atmospheres, steering into symphonic black metal akin to Summoning.  And it really does capture the epic vibes very well, but the problem is that a 16-minute Ruins of Beverast song needs to keep evolving.  Thankfully this gets around to that at around the five-minute mark, but I think the pitch of the synths is a bit too high for the deeper timbres of the black metal instrumentation, so I can't really say that RoB rocks symphonic black as well as he does atmo-black, despite this being a pretty cover.

OK, the first three tracks work perfectly well on their own, and even in order, whether or not they were intended that way.  The three covers in the second half, however, felt lacking and in need of polishing in order to be great.  So if you're a Beverast fan already, I really do recommend this album if not only for the first half.  But if you're not, you'll probably hate the covers.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 12, 2024 11:22 PM
Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite

The Ruins of Beverast marathon #3: Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite

OK, it felt a little weird typing that title, but whatever.  From what I've heard and read, there's kind of a battle between various Beverest albums for "best one."  Obligatory Beatles comparison.  Now this guy only has six albums, but four of them are contenders: Unlock the Shrine, Rain Upon the Impure, Sheltered Elite and Exuvia.  I'm on the third of these, and I can't wait to see what happens next.  While the first album was great, the sophomore showed a noticeable improvement in quality, being less repetitive and just as weird.  I'm a bit surprised that I'm the first one here to review it, though, considering how big these guys are in the metal community.

This is the album that represents the beginning of RoB's shift from a black metal focus to a doom one.  As a result, the opener, I Raised This Stone as a Ghastly Memorial has a less black production level which is less busy and noisy. This is an excellent example of RoB's ability to produce epic tracks while changing things around.  As far as switching it up with various variations in a single song goes, this is likely his most consistent song in that regard.  Despite the variations in the first act, the backing blackened guitars and the psychedelic / funereal slow-paced solors test the patience slighty.  But a little patience during a vocal segment, and we're back to the sounds of the first act, appropriately so, as that first melody was so epic in its tame approach that it absolutely MUST NOT be forsaken to one act alone.  Our next track slams us with total black metal: God's Ensanguined Bestiaries.  Now this started out as a purely black metal track with very clear production, one that used melody to draw me in again.  So it remains catchy and dark, but doesn't do anything different until the third act, in which the instruments take a step back for clearer vocals to sing for a minute.  And then it goes back to what it was doing. In all respects, the instrumentation's fine.  But when you stand this album next to Ghastly Memorial or anything from the sophomore, it looks and feels kinda like a standard atmo-black track at first.  Thankfully there's at least a change in tempo during the midsection.  This one once again takes advantage of slow compositions during the solos to bring out the epic approach of the album rather than thrashing the fuck out of everything.  And as a guy who generally prefers thrashing the fuck out of everything, it's a very welcome change of pace.  I guess after all the craziness in the sophomore, the fans need something a little more simple.  So this may be the worst track on the album, but it totally works.

This is the point of the album where things were getting weirder.  Mount Sinai Moloch was up next.  I can appreciate the industrial black ambient intro.  Chances were the song wasn't gonna do that for its 12.5 minute runtime.  The intro lasts about a minute and a half before going into some straight up death doom with a slight funereal touch, relying on the sparseness of the instrumentation to deliver the goods until blackened riffs overtake the background, going back to the "blackened doom: that Wikipedia likes to tag this band with, and then back to the funeral doom.  So while the first two songs were a bit more tame than this, I finally get the song I've been waiting for: a multi-faceted and consistent adventure of unpredictability that acts as a testament to RoB's talents.  Right after that is more funereal behavior with Transcending Saturnine Iericho Skies,  Its approach is certainly metallic, but very soothing to the metal soul.  The song evolves into straightforward doom after the intro, just rocking its Sabbathian vibes for a couple verses before taking a 180 into black metal like it's nothing.  And this eventually evolves into the atmospheric side as synths bring out an almost heavenly backdrop for about twenty seconds before we instantly sink right back into the funereal guitars of the intro.  There is obviously nothing this song won't try, which means any suspicions of the album being made of overlong and repetitive songs is practically gone now.  In fact, the changes of pace get more and more frequent the more you dive into this song.

However, despite all these interesting turns, I've heard most of these tricks on the previous album.  I really needed one.  Thankfully, higher timbres of The Restless Mills did just that, going into the highest pitches of tremolo that RoB has picked this far.  This one's far more rooted in the slow atmospheres of metal than anything beforehand.  Unfortunately, the tremolo trick hadn't returned for a long time, but I had a strong atmosphere with some interesting effects in the background to make up for that.  It might not mix it up much until the last third, and I suppose that's fine after the last two tracks, but it doesn't quite have enough melody to go around, either, leaving an empty feeling despite the strengths.  Now Theriak - Baal - Theriak is where we REALLY get something new.  It starts with some maniacal laughing as an unintelligible growl is speaking, leaving me to believe the voice is saying something disgusting and funny while the voices laugh (On a side note, I know all four of Kenny's verses in each version of the South park theme).  Once the laughing is done, the percussions go headfirst into hardcore punk territory!  That's completely new for RoB.  The song switches between focus on atmosphere and melody while switching between growls and singing during this segment, but switches to a more dramatic monotone beat with its own mystic and ritualistic vibe before returning.  Once again, all these changes feel completely natural.  Right before the end of this track, we go into a much cooler and astral Sabbathian vibe, one that would likely make the stoners crazy.  Excellent inclusion before ending before going back into the speedy black guitars.

Alright, now after all the craziness I went through in RoB's catalog to get this far, it's time to talk about the final track of his third album.  Cool deep space synths and an audio sample, nice but been there.  Instances of a 60 BPM blackened rhythm accompanying it.  Improvement.  Evolves into its own focus for the synthesizers to empower, draws itself out while focusing on melody.  Clear vocals and vocal effects taking turns.  In its first two minutes it took several mutations on a very natural level.  This is an extremely psychedelic tune where RoB does a masterful job of just drawing people into its drug-induced black metal world, like the best tracks by Oranssi Pazuzu.  Almost halfway there, a stoner riff cuts out the astral vibes and goes right for pure metal solo for a couple of minutes before returning to some slow but intriguing blackened doom riff before ending in the same psychedelia that began it.  This is a whole new level of wild for RoB.

This album shows RoB at the top of his game, recycling older elements from the past album while increasing the doom influence and improving the production values.  This album is much more than the black doom album RYM has the audacity to tag it with.  This is a journey across the world that the combination of these two genres can explore without losing their identities.  I guess if I had to fault the album for anything, it would be that I heard some of these tricks on the last album, but I think I should forgive that since the primary focus of the album and the production quality are both very different.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 12, 2024 10:01 PM
Rain Upon the Impure

Ruins of Beverast marathon #2: Rain Upon the Impure

Our opener is the 13.5 minute epic 50 Forts Alone the Rhine.  This would be his longest song released, so the chances of being totally monotonous were pretty high, unless BoR managed to keep it creative throughout.  I noticed variations in production quality between clear sound effects and slightly fuzzy production for the guitars, while the vocals are right in the middle of the two.  Nothing, however, gets in the way of each other, allowing these multiple elements to work in harmony while the unpredictability of The Mine is combined with the melodic charms of the earlier tracks on Unlock the Shrine, which makes this his best song so far.  I had been curious for a couple years about the combination of fuzzy and clear production and how to properly utilize it.  RoB answered my question, and I'm perfectly satisfied with the answer.  Add the fact that this is probably the creepiest song of his so far, then I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the greatest metal songs I've ever heard.

Next is a SIXTEEN minute track: Soliloquy of the Stigmatized Shepherd.  Damn... The song begins with a dirge of black doom that's more than eager to stomp you flat into the earth.  The doom switches between the death and funeral brands, allowing Frohn to add sparce moments of black growls and guitar effects.  These sparse moments aren't quite enough to make up for the otherwise lack in shifting behavior that the track is guilty of, as it has to compete with the previous song's astounding creativity.  But at the halfway point, our percussion largely ceases for a moment, and the guitar effects become alien and otherworldly, playing at a rapid pace.  The track then evolves into a war metal riff and blast.  The percussions are a little drowned by the riff, but the atmosphere is hypnotic.  We have a couple of minutes of this before the doom takes over again with a couple higher pitches and a more astronomical approach, and then goes back to black again with a slower but still energetic approach, which means our super-slow track is finally utilizing the creativity of the previous track despite its slightly overlong first half.  What a way to save it.  Now we just let the chanting and the psychedelic guitars take us away through the end.  Kick back, enjoy the atmos.

Track 3 is 16 minutes as well, and I've got some pretty high hopes for this one as track two came back with some punches.  Track two evolves into Blood Vaults with more weird sound effects, overtaking the guitars in both volume and focus.  Now things are getting multi-dimensional, like I've been pulled into a Stephen King shadow world.  This intro evolves into a very focused and melodic atmo-black track with the kind of aggression the album's been largely missing.  It even takes a moment to give us the obligatory nerdy Vincent Price sample.  For a while, the drums are hurt by the bad production, but after the sample they seem to be fixed, going at a perfect volume with the riff and some deep masculine choir singing.  Now this change in production wasn't really an "artistic decision" that needed to be there, as the worse production on the first act of this song did more harm than good.  But it's nice to have more balance back, and the melodies keep shifting with perfect consistency.  So Once again we have a flaw in a track's beginning while the song gets better as it goes along.

And now for the THIRD sixteen minute track in a row: Soil of the Incentuous.



Ahem, excuse me.  Now for this track.  It starts off with a standard black doom rhythm and riff, not really impressing me at first.  But I had already decided to wait and see what it was going to do next.  Once it upped the blackness, the rapid speed aggression brought more of its general evil out.  it remains standard until another vocal sample leads us to a gothic section with industrial noises to bring us a totally new sound and direction that the album hasn't explored yet, and it feels perfectly fitting.  But once again we're back to the plastic black metal after a couple minutes.  This track shows RoB being much more serious about the black metal aspects than he was on the previous tracks.

After a creepy dark ambient track that does its job but fails to hold a candle to its brothers from Unlock the Shrine.  This track shows RoB doing everything he can to make it an epic ending.  Even anything vaguely related to doom is relying on bombast here, which has largely been missing from the album so far.  Even when the industrial percussions return, everything is epic, loud and cinematic.  A plethora of different vocal styles comes in to aid in every piece of this album from mutant chanting to choirs to demonic growls.  I'd even say this is the second best song that I've heard him record so far.

I'm more than pleased with this sophomore effort.  There are a couple small decisions that shouldn't have been made, and there are a lot of seriously artistic moments that draws me into every angle of the individual worlds each track explores.  Rain Upon the Impure is proper black metal, but also acts as both a slow and fast cinematic exploration of what the darkness of black metal is capable of.  No wonder this is RoB's most popular album, it's a tornado of perfectly evil melodies and vibes.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 12, 2024 08:09 PM
Unlock the Shrine

Ruins of Beverast marathon #1: Unlock the Shrine

Today I'm going on a marathon for a modern black metal artist with an apparent sense of creativity: Alexander Frohn, also known as Meilenwald, and most popularly known as The Ruins of Beverast.  Like other band marathons I've taken on, such as Evoken, I'll be starting from the ground up.  It's been a while since I just had a long metal kick, and I want to get into more doom metal by listening to their more recent doom efforts.  But I don't think I'd be treating them fairly if I didn't go back to their roots first, so a trip to the atmo-black world of Unlock the Shrine it is.

First, lemme mention that atmo-black metal really isn't one of my favorite forms of it.  So many "atmo" genres favor length for the sake of build-up but neglect composition.  I'm not really getting that right here, though.  We start this album off with a good composition and a slow but effective melodic rhythm that manages to last 8.5 minutes, and I'd even give it around 8.5 for how well it was able to keep itself going despite the lack of general activity.  Other songs tend to do this with varying lengths, usually short.  Now Skeleton Coast was a good piece of dark ambient with an almost swamp-like vibe, but I was mostly taken in by Euphoria When the Bombs Fell.  It's a great combination of atmo-black and death doom that once again puts slow melodies first and atmosphere following closely behind.  Afterwards comes God Sent No Sign, which starts off with weird, almost cartoonish alien effects posing as dungeon synthesizers, but ends up backed up by a noisy black metal riff with no percussion.  I addressed the randomness of the decision as feeling somewhat out of place with the first three tracks, but it was still nice while it lasted.

OK, so now there's an 11-minute epic: The Clockhand's Groaning Circles.  I didn't really have any idea what to expect, but ONCE AGAIN, melody came first.  A slightly proggy touch is just enough to separate this song from the others while carrying the same atmospheres, I think at this point, the perfect recreation of past vibes gets in the way of the variety of it all, but the composition still makes it much more create than any Wolves in the Throne Room album.  And once again there's a switch to weird repeating effects.  Procession of Pawns takes an industrial look at dark cabaret, looking at it in that creepy carnival way while keeping it quiet enough for the darker wind effects to take equal focus.  Visually, all I see are dark red skies, winds blowing dark brown dirt in the air and a broken down carousel.

Appropriately, we get a blast of utter black noise on Summer Decapitation Ritual.  You can barely make out any melody, which is perfectly fine for noise fans who want atmosphere, but is also a little disappointing considering that the strongest point for this band so far has been slow and catchy melodies with dark atmospheres backing them up, rather than vise-versa.  I can't really say the decision here was the best course of action.  But they really do nail the menacing vibes, and it also showcases their variety without losing touch of the darkness.  This ends after about three minutes before getting to those same symphonic trumpets the Summoning fans love so much, but there's hardly anything else symphonic about this as a super-noisy melody backs it up, betraying the atmospheric focus for pure melody.  It's a bit hard to gauge how much of a shift this was as a change was necessary, but may have been too bombastic.  The third act of this song goes back to the structure of the first, but the percussions and effects make it louder and more maniacal than before, but also use the room they had for the melody of the trumpets to be recreated by guitars at a faster pace.  So despite the trumpets being a little bombastic for this type of song, I commend the band for their creative and artistic attempts, notably since they mostly succeed.

The next "effects" track, Cellartunes, is by far the creepiest.  Field recordings and slow and deep synths work with dripping water and heavy breathing to create the creepiest atmosphere these guys have done on the album so far, but it only lasts two minutes.  For a dark ambient track on a black metal album, this might be the best track so far.  These effects mold right into the title track without wavering, ready to turn the effects into an actual song. And after about a minute, we get a sluggish industrial melody with matching percussion to slowly but surely carry these effects into black metal territory.  As it should be, it's purely frightening and mesmerizing for the first two acts before using the last three minutes on a perfectly fitting ride into the stormy noise seen in the first and third acts of Summer Decapitation Ritual.  The next effects track is Subterranean Homicide Lamentation, which takes a black ambient industrial noise and puts it to tribal chanting and a faint wind instrument that I think is a clarinet.  This combination is perfectly balanced and gets its effect out of the way well enough, although I would've liked for this concept to emerge into its own song.  The percussions and guitars of the 12-minute epic, The Mine, follow suite.  The changes are largely in the thickness of the guitar atmosphere and the switching between weird vocal effects and darker growls.  Every couple minutes there's a change in either the effects or the rhythm, but it never breaks its heavy emotional core.  The effects and structure become only more and more unpredictable and even progressive, keeping me on my toes and making me eager to hear even more.  The album ends with the shortest track: White Abyss, which is all about high-pitched winds, screams and weird effects whirling about your head.

This was a satisfying debut that proved that early on in his career, Mr. Meilenwald already had a clear idea of what makes art worth exploring.  While this breaks absolutely no new ground, it gives us multiple variations of the standard black metal song and keeps things unpredictable.  This debut definitely gets my seal of approval, and it makes me more eager for the sophomore that everyone seems to love.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 12, 2024 06:33 PM
Eternal Life of Madness

Pentagram, aka Pentagram Chile, despite being formed almost forty years ago, return in 2024 with only their second full-length album, eleven years after their debut, The Malefice. They did, however, knock out some killer demos back in the 80s and deserve at least a line or two in the book of thrash metal. In fact, truth be told, they deserve more than that because I am sure they have been a big influence on any number of the top-drawer thrashers emerging from Chile over the last few years. New album, Eternal Life of Madness, has eleven tracks and runs for a feverish fifty-five minutes. Pentagram's version of thrash metal sits very comfortably at the deaththrash end of the spectrum and, in truth, is content with medium-paced tempos that sometimes slip into almost doomy territory, with The Seeds of the Deed and Omniscient Tyrant in particular reminding me of Celtic Frost's slower moments. In fact, they do a very good job of varying their pacing, The Portal, for instance, has incendiary moments where they let rip with some real heads down thrashing, but they also throttle it back for a more ominously threatening vibe.

On the whole Eternal Life of Madness is a very solid entry into the modern thrash metal canon with excellent production values and a high level of technical competence, but the truth is that Pentagram, despite being an iconic name in the chilean thrash world, have some stiff competition from some of their younger countrymen such as Demoniac and Critical Defiance and I am not 100 percent convinced they have reached the same level, especially in the songwriting department, as those two with their latest. Don't get the wrong idea, this is still really good, I am merely playing devil's advocate and suggesting that time hasn't necessarily strengthened Pentagram's hand. Omniscient Tyrant, Icons of Decay, the extremely Slayer-ish, Devourer of Life and Deus est machina are all most definitely worth the time of any red-blooded thrasher and outdoes any number of pretenders. Look, if you love South American deaththrash then get your sweaty mitts on a copy of this and I'm sure you won't be too disappointed - I'm not, despite any minor niggles I may have.

Sonny Sonny / May 12, 2024 04:06 PM
Despondency Chord Progressions

The seemingly unstoppable evolution of South American metal in recent years shows no sign of abating still in 2024. Venezuelan in origin, yet now residing in Chile, Selbst's challenging brand of black metal bled through well on 2020's Relatos de angustia. Come 2024, multi-instrumentalist, N has once again continued the exploratory direction of his project adding a cleaner and more progressive leaning slant to album number three. By now a very well-established artist, the song writing on Despondency Chord Progressions smells of confidence. Clearly at home in his surroundings, the thoughts and ideas in his head translate well into the seven tracks here. We get (largely) strong structures and some deft and agile guitar playing, which are the two main standouts for me on the record.

The cleaner aspects are where things come a little unstuck for me in all honesty though. There is nothing wrong with progressing as an artist and growing as a musician (both of which are obvious developments on this record) of course, however there is always the risk that along the way you lose some of the fan base. Whilst by no means alienated by the record, it does stray too close to a sound that is not my usual fare. There is still more than enough Deathspell Omega and Mgla vibes to keep the more conventional black metal fan scowling contentedly. However, the layering feels less cold and unwelcoming this time around, leading to a sense of some loss of depth from the sound of the previous record.

Tracks such as When True Loneliness is Experienced border on the meandering in places, and whilst this track does pull itself into a more appealing space by the end, the work to get there does not necessarily justify the outcome. Clearly developing well, Selbst is a project that will continue to grow and branch out into pastures newer as time goes on, I am sure. Despondency Chord Progressions is a strong record, just not one liked overall by this scribe. Selbst is still winning and has the potential to become an unstoppable force in the future if N can continue to develop record-to-record as he has over the last two. I will contently sit waving over the distance between us it grows though.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 11, 2024 11:20 AM
Transcendence Into the Peripheral

Doom metal is practically a genre transitioning the act of digging deeper graves into sound, and the deeper you dig, the heavier you are.  Disembowelment understood this, and it was clear the moment their guitars growled for the first time.  While The Tree of Life and Death, the opener, starts off as a death metal song, its slowly draws you even deeper into dramatic slower pacing and growling guitars until you're not only covered in dirt, but you've sunk into it like an abyss, scared and turning your head as much as you can to avoid the worms you can't see.

My concerns regarding the risk of monotony within hour-long doom albums was at least temporarily countered with the gothic doom sounf of Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory.  It brought a completely new hypnosis to the album, vaguely reminiscing My Dying Bride while using its cleaner production in tandem with black metal riffs during the midsection, and incorporating slow masculine chanting to set a blueprint for what would become funeral doom.  So without these guys, there might've been no Esoteric or Evoken.  While the first track was beautiful, the second was more creative.

Another surprise overtook me as the noisiest shit you'll ever hear capitalizes on the black-death riffs of Prophetic Throne and begins the third track: Excoriate.  There's no rhythm of any kind at first, so while the atmosphere was incredible, I can't say I'm thoroughly impressed with that decision.  But then the instrumentation gets slower, deeper, more artistic and just as horrific as the opener.  It feels to me that this was an early influence for one of my favorite black metal bands: Cabinet.  The cleaner gothic guitars return for a much scarier composition than the hypnotic elements shown in Prophetic Throne.  In fact, the industrial and quirky methods used to bring out the atmosphere are ringing heavily of the album Children of God by Swans. It's a shame this song started out with such a rhythmless beginning, otherwise this would be a perfect song.  It could be said that the beginning was part of the experimental nature, but I feel like it could've still been performed more artistically.  And lo and behold, this is how the song ends as well, which is slightly disappointing despite being extraordinarily heavy.

Nightside of Eden is a relatively short one, and I noticed that when looking at the tracklist.  My first thought was: starts acoustic and probably stays that way.  I was right, but this doesn't mean it wasn't weird.  The beautiful whispers of a female and a strange ghostly instrumentation give it a mythical feel that takes me deep into a golden sunlit forest where a magic well with a statue of Aphrodite awaits.  That is literally what I pictured, dark green leaves, birds and everything.

Our longest song, A Burial at Ornans, starts out how it should, superslow, gruesome in its haunting buildup, slow and tribal in its percussion, etc.  While it's a great sound, it gets to be a bit much for me overtime, which means the band went past their limitations before taking a complete 180 into blackened death territory, which is a fine change but isn't a perfect situation.  In fact, it's a little jarring.  Great sound aside, there are many more creative 10+ minute slow-metal songs out there.

The Spirits of the Tall Hills starts out by using the clean gothic guitars in tandem with blast beats to create a faster and almost blackened sound that stands out from the other songs.  Eventually, the percussions and feedback go right into the black area while the guitars stay the same, creating a strange but soothing post-metal vibe.  There is enough mutation throughout the song to allow it to recycle elements via new combinations of the group's compositions.  Eventually, the percussion takes a big backstep, allowing the gothic guitars to go into surreal but slow psychedelia before diving right back into the speed for one final epic burst.

The final track is Cerulean Transience Of All My Imagined Shores, and it's more deep and mystical throughout its run.  After the harp intro, we once again see familiar elements recycled to create a different kind of experience.  The middle section feels a bit quiet and tame, but it only gets a little louder in the end, which means the album doesn't really end on the big bang it needs.

Glad I finally got through this one.  It certainly did set up several new standards for doom metal, even if it needed to flesh out a couple of things.  Totally worth the hour.

Rexorcist Rexorcist / May 11, 2024 02:26 AM
Jar of Kingdom

Being a local gives any self-respecting metalhead some additional rights within their homeland as it affords you the privilege of being in the know about a number of artists that offer a high-quality product but, for one reason or another, have failed to break out of the confines of their international borders. Canberra four-piece Alchemist fit that bill very nicely for us Aussies & I think you'd be surprised as to how big a role they ended up playing in the childhood of both of your Metal Academy administrators. Ben & I came across Alchemist very early on in their recording career when we picked up their 1993 "Jar of Kingdom" CD from the local record store. We were both under-age at the time so didn't have much of an understanding of who Alchemist were at that point but, over the next 3-4 years, that situation would drastically change with the boys playing an increasingly more significant role in our lives. I'd pickup Alchemist's 1991 "Demo '91" demo tape directly through the band shortly afterwards but it wouldn't make anything like the sort of impact that Alchemist's next couple of albums did & I look back on both of those with great fondness & nostalgia now. I'd also see Alchemist play live on countless occasions during the mid-1990's as they were a regular visitor to our hometown of Sydney which is less than a three-hour drive from Australia's capital city, not to mention their involvement in both organizing & performing at the legendary annual Canberra metal festival Metal For The Brain which was very much a right of passage for Aussie metalheads. Alchemist were an amazing experience in a live environment too, particularly when you've just dropped a tab of LSD as I had on one memorable occasion in Newtown. That's a story for another time though as we're really here to talk about Alchemist's debut album "Jar of Kingdom" which is still a very interesting listen all these years later.

Alchemist were formed by band leader Adam Agius (The Levitation Hex) back in 1987 & had begun life as a tech thrash band with their first two demo tapes "Eternal Wedlock" & "Demo '90" sitting predominantly in that space. I recently revisited their third demo tape "Demo '91" though & found Alchemist to be in a transitional phase that saw them sitting halfway between a Voivod-ish tech thrash model & a far more experimental & creative avant-garde/psychedelic sound. Did it work? Weeellll.... not quite. It was far more interesting than it was enjoyable. Alchemist's debut album would see the promise of that demos A side coming to fruition though with the band having had the time to complete their transition into a fully-fledged avant-garde death metal band. Agius was the only original member remaining by this stage & he'd recruited a very talented trio of accomplices to assist him in the creation of some of the most bizarre metal music the world (& certainly a seventeen year-old me) had ever heard to the time.

"Jar of Kingdom" sports a very unusual production job that can initially be a little off-putting. The bass & rhythm guitars possess a strangely bassed-out tone with very little in the way of high-end & it sees them being somewhat lost in the background. This affords the psychedelics that are layered over the top the opportunity to play the role of the sole instrumental protagonist. You can still make out all of the riffs but one feels that the album could have been a touch more effective if those riffs were given a little more scope. In saying that though, I can't deny that this flaw only amplifies the things that make Alchemist truly unique i.e. their strange, quirky & downright bizarre psychedelic melodics. It also gives Adam more room to move as a frontman with his vocals now being presented as a rabid, unintelligible death metal bark. He never takes himself too seriously though so the listener rarely finds themselves with that classic extreme metal scowl on their face as this music is simply too fun for that.

The tracklisting on "Jar of Kingdom" is very consistent & was clearly the result of the lengthy six-year engagement period & extensive live experience. It opens with my favourite inclusion in "Abstraction" which showcases Alchemist's new sound in all its glory. My other clear favourite is the short & atmospheric "Found" which features guest female vocals from Adam's family friend Michelle Klemke. The other eight tracks are universally rewarding but rarely overcome the fact that I simply can't ever genuinely "love" a record that's this silly. The re-recorded version of my favourite song from "Demo '91" in "Enhancing Enigma" was most welcome while there are number of others that would soon become live favourites for me & my friends. I'd imagine that it would be quite hard for those that have never had the pleasure of witnessing an Alchemist show to imagine this material being presented in a faithful format in a live environment but I can assure you that the band sounded almost exactly like this live, if not better.

Look... I'm not going to sit here & tell you that "Jar of Kingdom" is essential listening & it doesn't come close to touching Alchemist's next couple of records either but it was an important record in the annuls of Aussie metal history nonetheless & I think it has something to offer, particularly for those members of The Infinite who are gifted with a more eclectic taste profile. I mean, I'd argue that if you haven't heard Alchemist then you're completely in the dark about some of the places that metal music can go as they created arguably the most psychedelic example of metal music you'll ever encounter. Imagine a combination of the silly avant-garde experimentation of Mr. Bungle & the weird-ass death metal of Phlebotomized or Pan.Thy.Monium & you won't be far off the mark. Perhaps you think that there are musical borders that simply can't be broken through? Well, Alchemist emphatically piss on that idea with their debut album & they should be given credit for that if nothing else.

Daniel Daniel / May 10, 2024 08:39 PM
Maze Envy

Death Doom Metal and me get along quite well. Traditional Doom Metal and me also like each others company. Myself and death metal is...complicated.

Unlike most of the regulars here at Metal Academy, my metal roots (barring the Gateway clan) come from the Guardians. This is quite the change of pace from the most extreme and dank sides of the Horde, North and Pit. I always enjoy a good melodic lead to keep songs alive and memorable beyond simple textures. Death Doom Metal has become my safe place when it comes to finding music that is death metal adjacent that also has its fair share of melodically driven tracks. That said, I've also grown impatient with Death Doom Metal. I thought the whole purpose of having "Death" in the subgenre was to imply the cacophonous nature of Death Metal, but it seems to just refer to a type of Doom that has harsh vocals.

Let's just say that I was hesitant with Maze Envy, the newest album from Civerous. And it was published through 20 Buck Spin. Their is no way that this album could possibly live up to my lofty expectations right?

Well for starters, this album takes the phrase "Death Doom Metal" very seriously. This record takes influence from Dead Congregation with albums like Promulgation of the Fall where it has influences in both genres. There are portions of this record where blast beats prevail, guitar chugging is filthy and Lord Foul's vocals are pummeling. On the other hand, slower, doom-y riffs that can sometimes feel like they have metalcore influence, with wailing guitar leads serve a well needed compliment to the restlessness. But most importantly, both of these ideas fit well together. Melodic connectivity is extremely well done and greatly improves both of this albums nine (9) plus minute tracks at its end.

Which leads nicely into this albums pacing. The album feels a lot heavier during its opening moments with "Shrouded In Crystals" (which itself is eight-and-a-half minutes), "Labyrinth Charm" and "Levitation Tomb" and they leave me wanting more. Civerous follow that up with those final two tracks; the title track "Maze Envy" and "Geryon (The Plummet)." The more doom focus here makes for a more enjoyable, melodic experience as themes ebb and flow in-and-out together leaving both of them feeling complete. This band is not playing heavy for the sake of heaviness and it shows in the runtime; this album could have easily exceeded fifty (50) minutes, but opening the record with shorter, heavier songs helps the longer closing tracks become more rewarding.

The mixing of Maze Envy is pretty good actually. It actually sounds heavy with booming guitars that, as mentioned previously, do have some metalcore spice added in during some of the albums doom-y passages. The vocals form Lord Foul are genuinely impressive; they do not reinvent the wheel in any meaningful way, but their presentation is splendid and help to accentuate the dark themes presented. However, like with a lot of power metal albums, the synths here are just bad. They could have replaced many of their synth leads with the strings or even an extra guitar lead to help make this album sound even bigger, but instead these moments take a pretty decent mix and turn it flaccid in an instant.

I really liked Maze Envy, despite my initial concerns. It's an album that knows the difference between sounding heavy and actually doing it. It's also not an album that is afraid of melodies and leads, which lends into its memorability. And the structure of the album is set in a way where the album becomes more atmospheric and surreal during its runtime. If it wasn't for the flaws in the production, Maze Envy might have been a classic. Either way, it is a wonderful little album that should satisfy all walks of metal life.

Best Songs: Shrouded In Crystals, Levitation Tomb, Maze Envy

Saxy S Saxy S / May 09, 2024 07:43 PM
Myriad Woes

Above Aurora are a duo hailing from Poznan in Poland, comprising drummer "O" (Oktawiusz Marusiak) and vocalist, guitarist and bassist, "V" whose only other known alias is "KW". Forming in 2015, "Myriad Woes" is the duo's third full-length, although my own experience with the pair only encompasses their 2016 debut, Onwards Desolation, with it's blend of black and doom metal very much appealing to me.

Myriad Woes kicks off with it's longest track, the haunting "Inner Whispers" which is, essentially, an instrumental, although it utilises several voice samples of people discussing serious mental health-related issues. It takes a number of twists and turns throughout it's eleven minutes from an introspectively ominous opening post-rock build-up, laced through with mounting doom-laden tension which ultimately resolves into a blasting black metal explosion of violence. It is an incredibly thoughtfully constructed track which makes for one hell of an impactful opener and leaves the listener with decidedly disturbed emotions (well it did for me anyway). Second track, Spark, is a much shorter, more straightforward affair, with a mid-tempo doomy riff dominating and V's hoarse bark providing vocal accompaniment, before kicking into high gear for the run in. It's a decent track, and after the emotional wringer of Inner Whispers it allows the listener to get back on an even keel emotionally, although following such a titanic track it feels a little slight and almost a bit disappointing, to my ears.

Elsewhere, Above Aurora like to draw on a couple of different influences with the "bounce" of sections of "Horns of Dread" giving it a vaguely post-punk feel at times and the occasionally jangling guitar work sounding somewhat goth-influenced. I think it is also fair to point out that the doom metal component is not as overt as previously, meaning Myriad Woes isn't a genuine black doom hybrid, but rather the doominess manifests as an ominousness of atmosphere and adds heft to the black metal riffs which beefs up the overall sound. So, if pushed, I would summarise it as a mid-tempo black metal album with a particularly dark and oppressive atmosphere, laced with the occasional haunting melody that also gives vent to aggressive outbursts of blastbeat-driven violence. It is actually quite a brief album, it's five tracks amass a mere thirty-three minutes runtime, but it is so proficiently put together that no moments are wasted or superfluous and come album's end the sensation, certainly that I experienced, is one of having listened to a very substantial release that has delved into the darker recesses of the human psyche and laid them bare. Above Aurora have illustrated here that it is possible to put together a thoughtful and affecting black metal album that can still utilise melodic passages and doesn't have to rely on dissonance and avant-garde stylings to create unease in the listener, but rather achieve it through skillful songwriting and atmosphere creation. I am very much impressed at Above Aurora's development since the 2016 debut and will endeavour to keep an eye on them going forward.

Sonny Sonny / May 09, 2024 02:02 PM
Black Thrash Attack

Those of us that were as heavily involved in the tape trading scene as I was back in the 1990's might remember just how much hype there was around Oslo-based blackened thrash metallers Aura Noir around the time that their first couple of proper releases hit the shelves, partially due to the involvement of respected metal musicians Carl-Michael Eide (aka Aggressor - Infernö/Ved Buens Ende/Cadaver/Dødheimsgard/Satyricon/Ulver/Virus) & Ole Jørgen Moe (aka Apollyon - Coffin Storm/Cadaver/Dødheimsgard/Immortal) who both shared the instrumental contributions equally in a multi-instrumental fashion. I don't believe I ever heard either of Aura Noir's demo tapes but their 1995 debut E.P. "Dreams Like Deserts" was an outstanding way to introduce themselves to the underground & is still my pick of the band's discography to this day. My enjoyment of that release would see me urgently requesting a dubbed cassette copy of the Norwegians' 1996 debut album "Black Thrash Attack" as soon as it hit the lists of my fellow traders. Aura Noir's debut album saw them bringing guitarist Rune Eriksen (RUÏM/Twilight of the Gods/Vltimas/Ava Inferi/Mayhem/Nader Sadek) into the fold for the first time in what must surely go down as somewhat of an extreme metal supergroup & one that presented their musical roots very openly through their music too. Much like Aura Noir's other full-lengths, I don't recall enjoying "Black Thrash Attack" as much as I did "Dreams Like Deserts" so I haven't returned to it since but I do recall finding it fairly enjoyable so Sonny's feature release nomination has come as a pleasant surprise.

"Black Thrash Attack" is every bit the record that's advertised on the front cover as you'll rarely find a more blatant & pure example of the blackened thrash sound. It's raw & aggressive but, as with so many of Aura Noir's sources of inspiration, it doesn't take itself too seriously either. You won't find anything terribly original here. In fact, you can expect a totally retro vibe with the First Wave of Black Metal being the dominating influence. From track to track you'll no doubt pickup parts that have at the very least been inspired by early Bathory, Venom, Slayer & particularly Sodom whose influence appears quite regularly. The vocals, on the other hand, predominantly tend to sit in Quorthon (Bathory) & Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) territory & are one of the most appealing elements of a record. Like so many of the founding fathers of black/death/thrash metal did, this sees Aura Noir fitting very nicely into that groove between multiple extreme metal genres & also sees the Norwegians absolutely maxing out on their underground appeal with the kvlt elitists out there.

The album kicks off in stellar fashion with four really strong tracks opening proceedings & by the end of "Wretched Face of Evil" I was starting to wonder if I'd been a little harsh on "Black Thrash Attack" back in the day as the material seemed to be of a higher standard than I recalled. Unfortunately, the remaining six tracks don't match that quality though, despite the majority of them being pretty enjoyable & undeniably thrashy tunes in their own right. "Destructor" is the one song where I find myself struggling for engagement but everything else has a lovely, familiar old-school vibe about it, sometimes because I've literally heard some of the riffs a thousand times before (see the blatant Sodom & Slayer plagiarism in "The One Who Smite" for example).

I think "Black Thrash Attack" probably falls into that category where I really want to like it more than I actually do. Those first four tracks are excellent & immediately see me dropping my guard but, once I've dug into the record in more detail, I find that it doesn't quite hold up to greater scrutiny. There isn't a genuine classic here (although "Conqueror" tries very hard to get there) & that's probably another reason why I can't achieve a more solid rating but the B side simply isn't of four-star standard in my opinion. It's respectable, I admit, but I can't claim that it gets my blood flowing to the same extent as the A side does. This failing leaves Aura Noir with a decent blackened thrash record that should appeal to fans of bands like Nifelheim, Destroyer 666 & Desaster & may also be the band's strongest full-length but it's one that's unlikely to see me reaching for it all that often in the future.

Daniel Daniel / May 09, 2024 04:15 AM

While it's probably worth mentioning from the start that New York's Living Colour have never really fit within the stringent criteria required to enter my personal taste profile, I've always had an appreciation for what they do, particularly during their late 80's & early 90's heyday which is where my knowledge of them ends. I was first introduced to Living Colour through their super-popular smash hit "Cult of Personality" which I discovered on a compilation album shortly after its release back in 1988 & it would lead me to progressively pick up dubbed copies of their first three full-lengths as they hit the market, all of which offered me similar levels of entertainment even if I never considered any of them to be essential. Interestingly though, I never considered Living Colour to be a metal band during their earlier days with their 1988 debut album "Vivid" being more of a funky hard rock record. The links to metal grew off the back of 1990's "Time's Up" record which I regard as one of the extremely rare examples of a true "funk metal" release with the vast majority of other records being tagged as such failing to convince me of their eligibility for the niche subgenre. I always thought of 1993's "Stain" as being Living Colour's strongest work to the time but I haven't heard it since my last year of high school in 1993 though so I'm here to confirm or deny that allegation today.

One thing's for certain & that's that "Stain" was Living Colour's most consistent & most mature record to the time. Where both "Vivid" & "Time's Up" contained a few obviously weaker tracks to balance out the inclusion of their hugely successful singles, "Stain" possesses neither trait, instead offing a solid set of thirteen tracks that never disappoint but rarely amaze. The fact that it rarely leaves me cringing is a big plus though, as is the wonderful contribution of guitarist Vernon Reid who I feel delivers one of his most compelling performances here with his jazz fusion inspired & whacked out solos being thoroughly captivating. New bass player Doug Wimbish also proves himself to be a true star of his chosen craft with a powerful & invariably impressive array of basslines that anchor the songs beautifully. One thing I do think is worth noting though is that this material is not nearly as funky as it's made out to be so the links to funk metal are misguided. "Stain" is much more of a blend of alternative metal & hard rock for mine with only closer "Wall" fitting the bill for funk metal so I'd encourage all members of The Gateway to down-vote Funk Metal & up-vote Alternative Metal on the Metal Academy release page.

As to be expected with a Living Colour record, the tracklisting offers plenty of variety with regular change-up songs being included in order to keep things interesting & showcase the talented musicians' flexibility. My favourites are the synth-driven art rock piece "Nothingness". the experimental/avant-garde hip hop number "WTFF" & the afore-mentioning "Wall" which I think was a great way to close out the album. The quirky ode to bisexuality "Bi" is the most obviously commercialized inclusion while "Hemp" even sees Living Colour attempting a deep ambient sound. There are a number of hard rock-based tracks that will no doubt have fit very comfortably into US commercial rock radio programming at the time but they all maintain a reasonable level of integrity & quality.

After a few active listens on my commute to work & back this week, I'm gonna have to suggest that my position on "Stain" hasn't changed much. Perhaps Reid's contribution may be slanting me in this direction given my obvious penchant for high-end guitar playing but I still think that "Stain" was Living Colour's best album to the time. I've certainly confirmed my suspicion that it was their most mature & consistent one. Perhaps I just enjoy an alternative metal sound more than a funk metal one or a funky hard rock one but I tend to think there's a little more to it than that & feel that "Stain" has been a little hard done by due to the lack of hit singles it contains. If you're a fan of "Vivid" or "Time's Up" or similar bands like Extreme, Electric Boys or Ugly Kid Joe then I'm willing to bet you'll enjoy "Stain" too.

Daniel Daniel / May 08, 2024 11:38 PM
Tools of the Trade

I believe the tracks on this EP were recorded during the Necroticism sessions, that much seems quite apparent anyway. The opening title track is the only previously unreleased track and I must admit that I am quite taken with it, it still hangs on to some of the earlier grind influence and although it was clearly recorded later, it sounds similar to "Swarming Vulgar Mass of Infected Virulency" and easily could have been on Symphonies of Sickness, my personal favourite Carcass album. Second of the four tracks on offer here is Incarnated Solvent Abuse, lifted straight from Necroticism and is a worthy addition, it being one of the band's most recognisable and well-loved tracks, it's melodic chug always able to get the old head nodding.

The other two tracks are both re-recordings and are worthwhile additions here, if only as an illustration as to how good early Carcass' songs were when the production is polished up. First of the two is Pyosified (Still Rotten to the Gore), originally on Reek of Putrefaction which here is like a polished diamond compared to the original Reek version with it's demo-quality production values drowning most of the guitar work. Here the main riff is freed from the chains of poor production to reveal it's full galloping glory and allow a reappraisal of just how great a riff it is. The second re-recording is "Hepatic Tissue Fermentation II" the original of which I am unfamiliar with, it initially appearing on the 1989 Pathological Compilation, the first release from Pathological Records, alongside tracks from the likes of Napalm Death, Godflesh and Coil. At six-and-a-half minutes it's an epic early Carcass track and here it sounds very impressive, combining the later pure death metal sound with their earlier grind tendencies with significant pacing variation, to produce a track that would sound very much at home of Symphonies of Sickness.

These tracks are all now available on later-released comps, but at the time I am sure this would have been a very interesting insight into the Carcass story and would signal the end of one era of the band, prior to their embarkation upon the melodic death metal journey they undertook from the following year's Heartwork onwards.

Sonny Sonny / May 07, 2024 03:54 PM
Maze Envy

I hadn't heard of Civerous before Ben suggested their latest album, Maze Envy, for the Fallen feature, but a brief overview had me suitably intrigued. Chiefly, the Los Angelinos play an old-school death metal and death doom hybrid which can trace it's lineage back to the likes of Autopsy, but they also like to throw in some progressive tendencies that updates their sound into a more modern beast. And beast it is, the death and death doom components being pretty brutal-sounding with thick, towering riffing sounding at turns both threateningly ominous and bestially viscious. Yet this maelstrom of menacing violence isn't all there is to Maze Envy, there are also moments of beauty and calm reflection, such as that provided by the post-rock guitar work of interlude track, Endless Symmetry, the intro to Levitation Tomb and the sombre middle section of the progressive title track. Elsewhere the closer, Geryon (The Plummet), has a rich gothic atmosphere, reminiscent of My Dying Bride, complete with violin and keyboards, whilst the opening intro track is all dissonant violin work that feels like part of an avant-garde modern classical piece.

But, all that aside, Maze Envy ultimately lives and dies on it's deathly doom metal credentials. Luckily for all of us, these credentials are impeccable and Civerous know what they are about when it comes to old-school death and death doom metal. Think Coffins, but with more outside influences and atmosphere construction, their layering of fairly thin-sounding keyboards over the doomier passages being a big part of the latter. When they let loose, however, their delivery is devastating. Labyrinth Charm for example, is a brutal, ballistic, full-on charge that features a couple of killer guitar solos and Levitation Tomb is a throbbing chug that sounds like a battalion of battle trolls drumming fear into the hearts of their  enemies.

On the downside, one slight criticism I have is that the whole album seems to be a victim of the loudness wars, making it sound like it has been fed steroids to pump it up to unnecessary sound levels, a move that the band hardly need as the music itself is sufficiently aurally arresting without resorting to additional production techniques. On the whole, though, this is a great example of the evolution of the old Autopsy sound into a very modern version of progressive death doom metal, featuring technical skill and imperious songwriting technique, resulting in an album worthy of the attention of any death doom fanatic looking for something that stands out from the crowd.

Sonny Sonny / May 07, 2024 02:41 PM
Danzig III: How the Gods Kill

While I was certainly well aware of former Misfits & Samhain front man Glenn Danzig's early solo works, I never felt the need to give them any dedicated attention until more recent times when I investigated his first two records in 1988's self-titled & 1990's "Danzig II - Lucifuge". I found both of them to be pretty decent & quite enjoyable hard rock albums too although I wouldn't consider either to be essential & I'd suggest that neither were metal enough to qualify as genuine metal releases either. 1992's "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" has always been talked about as the final piece in Danzig's trio of great records though so I've always felt that I owed it to myself to give it some consideration too, if only in the interest of satisfying the obsessive completist in me. The fact that it's often referred to as being Danzig's most metal record to the time was certainly a drawcard for it given my personal taste profile too so I didn't hesitate in selecting it as this month's The Guardians feature release.

My earliest observation was that "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" is most certainly a Danzig record. It's got that lovely, warm & organic production job with a bluesy feel & an atmosphere that verges on the gothic quite often, perhaps more so than either of Glenn's previous records. But this is also a heavier & more metallic record than "Danzig" & "Danzig II: Lucifuge" were. In fact, it's easily metal enough to qualify for heavy metal status on this occasion with the metal being even more prominent than the hard rock, although the combination of the two is very important in the holistic outcome that "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" achieves. While I've struggled with Glenn's vocal style at times in the past, it seems much better suited to this sound & I never found myself struggling at all. I'd actually go so far as to say that I really enjoyed his contribution here, particularly during the deeper & more atmospheric moments. You see, despite being a noticeably heavier record than Danzig's first two albums, this is also a deeper & more gothic sounding release. It's like everything that was hinted at on Danzig's earlier records has been amplified which has resulted in a release with a stronger purpose & a well-defined personality.

The tracklisting is generally very solid & consistent with almost all of the ten tracks being impressive in their scope & execution. The clear exception is the disappointing art rock piece "Sistinas" which draws upon ethereal wave/dream pop ideas & presents them in a way that seems much too poppy for Danzig but the rest of this material shows a clear level of class that can only be developed from many years of live performance & recording experience. Rick Rubin has done a splendid job as executive producing the album too as the material has been granted every opportunity to impress the listener. I particularly enjoy the guitar tones which have had the distortion backed off a bit in the interest of dynamics. The only thing that prevents "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" from getting to the extreme upper echilons of my esteem is that there's not more genuine classics included. The brilliant "Heart of the Devil" is the only inclusion that I'd suggest will go down as a long-term favourite of mine with it's slow buildup to a magnificent crescendo while the rest of the album is simply of a rock-solid quality. Some of that is due to the limitations in Danzig's vocal style of course but I'd also suggest that there are very few heavy metal albums that can achieve that level of affection from me anyway.

If I had to describe "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" to an uninitiated observer I'd probably say that you should imagine a combination of Zakk Wylde-era Ozzy Osbourne, the gothic-tinged hard rock of The Cult & the bluesy doom atmospherics of some of Pentagram's (well... Macabre's if we're being pedantic) early 1970's hard rock singles like "Be Forewarned". It's an intriguing & predominantly rewarding record that has taken Danzig to the next level with me after his first two albums failed to achieve essential listening status. I can't see any reason to continue to explore Glenn's later solo records at this point given that none of them are as highly regarded as his first three but I will most certainly be returning to "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill" from time to time as my new go-to Danzig record.

Daniel Daniel / May 05, 2024 07:50 PM
Deformity Adrift

Continuing my (unplanned) exploration of dissonant death metal – possibly sub-consciously engaged due to the promise of new Ulcerate next month – I have soon found myself at the door of Nightmarer and their release from 2023, Deformity Adrift. Now, before I put into words my thoughts on their sophomore release, I wanted to take a couple of lines to talk about why I like dissonant death metal. As a teenager of the 90’s, I grew up on a solid diet of meat and potatoes death metal and to this day I still enjoy playing many of the records from that era that still adorn my vinyl and CD shelves.

Fact is though that the death metal template soon gets old. Usually as one chunky riff ends, another one starts, or the frantic pacing overall takes little if any time to pause and take stock of where the song or track is at. What I find with bands such as Nightmarer is that the “normal” end point of a riff is carried further by often the slightest nuance, fluctuation, or inflection of picked strings. These atonal notes not only push tracks and indeed individual passages of tracks into new territory, but also act as links in the overall song structure (if done well enough) giving me something interesting as well as still punishing to listen to.

Nightmarer do the above well. Whilst not quite hitting the pummelling experience of Replicant or the vastness of Ulcerate, this four-piece (at the time of recording Deformity Adrift) manage to order their own brand of eerie chaos into an almost polished sounding offering. It does lack a sense of true depth to the sound, only really teasing the listener with the promise of thumping riffs and dense percussion every now and again. Tracks like Hammer of Desolation offer the best glimpses of this harder sound but at no point does the album sound tame or safe; Nightmarer by name, Nightmarer by nature still works as a phrase.

The bass heavy structures seem to rattle and reverberate as opposed to mine the depths of their foundations, and whilst there is nothing wrong with this, the album does still lack any true standout tracks or individual moments worth writing home about. Still, this is clever album that plays to the tag of dissonant death metal well. Perhaps the song lengths do need to hit the seven minute-plus mark on a couple of occasions to make this album sound more like a true heavyweight, but for now Deformity Adrift more than makes the weight.

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / May 05, 2024 11:03 AM